Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. today. Is it important for patients to be fully informed about their tumors? Most would say yes. But a new report shows that most patients are not completely informed about their tumors by their doctors.

Reuters reports on the new study.

The data collected by these researchers shows that breast cancer patients do not know as much as they need to about their tumors. 

People with breast cancer usually do not know what kind of tumors they have, the new study found.

How would it help women to know what kind of tumors they have?

The experts say that better knowledge might help women understand treatment decisions and take medications as directed.

Dr. Freedman, the study’s head author from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is a strong proponent of better informing women. She said,

“Cancer patients who understand the basis for their treatment are generally more satisfied with that treatment. Nobody to my knowledge has asked how much knowledge someone had of their own disease.”

How was the study conducted?

The experts did a plethora of research for the new for new study, which was published in the journal Cancer. Dr. Freedman and her colleagues asked 500 women from northern California about their breast cancers. These women had been diagnosed between 2010 and 2011.

Women in the study were asked about their tumor grade, tumor stage and whether or not their cancer gets its stamina from the hormone estrogen or a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

What were the results of the study?

Dr. Freedman and her team found that Fifty-five percent of women said they knew if their tumor fed off estrogen, and about a third said they knew their HER2 status. Only around a third said they knew their tumor’s grade, which is the cancer’s aggressiveness. Approximately 82 percent of women said they knew their tumor’s stage, or how advanced the cancer had become.

“Based on their medical records, only 56 percent of women reported the correct estrogen status, 58 percent reported the correct HER2 status and 57 percent reported the correct stage. Only about one in five women reported the correct grade. Overall, only 8 percent of women correctly answered all four questions, but the lack of knowledge was more pronounced among minority women, the researchers report,” according to Reuters.

Dr. Freedman decided to focus on the silver lining here. She said while this issue is serious; the good thing is that this problem is easily fixable.

Some doctors argue that breast cancer patients are informed on their own and do no need more information. Dr. Shayne of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York, was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health that breast cancer patients in general are a savvy group of individuals who bring their own information to oncologists and do a great deal of research of their own.

She also said, “They tend to read a lot and bring a lot of clippings in to their oncologist and ask a lot of questions. The results show that oncologists need to tailor their discussions about cancer to individual patients as much as they tailor the treatments. Cancer survivors should receive detailed treatment histories and information about their tumors for future medical care.”


Gerry Oginski
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