Cancer Decisions Need Support

Jan 17, 2012

A new study finds that breast cancer survivors had limited knowledge about their surgical options, including decisions that can help prevent recurrence of the disease. The findings are reported in this month's issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Clara Lee, a surgeon at UNC Hospitals, is a co-author of the study. She says the quality of decisions patients make is directly related to how well health providers inform patients about their choices.

Dr. Clara Lee: Even at really great places, women have some gaps in their knowledge and their preferences may not be fully expressed. I think that reflects more just how hard these decisions are, and how much we need to approach things in a shared way.

Lee says providers should develop decision support systems for breast cancer patients, including decision aids, coaches, and consultation planning. That would help patients who have to decide between options ranging from breast conservation surgery to double mastectomies. 440 patients participated in the study.