Patients with breast cancer need to be better educated by providers about their health, an analysis in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society found.
The findings, published Jan. 26 in CANCER, showed women with breast cancer lack knowledge about their condition. Researchers also revealed that minority patients were less likely than white patients to know or give accurate information about their tumors characteristics. Researchers surveyed 500 women with breast cancer, finding 32% to 82% reported they knew their tumor characteristics, including the tumor stage, grade, and receptor status. At the same time, only 20% to 58% of patients correctly reported the characteristics, with black and Hispanic women less likely than white women to know their cancer characteristics, even when accounting for socioeconomic status and health literacy.
Still, some of the awareness shortfalls disappeared for Hispanic women but not as much for black women when accounting for health literacy and education attainment, according to the research.
Our results illustrate the lack of understanding many patients have about their cancers and have identified a critical need for improved patient education and provider awareness of this issue, said Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and one of the reports authors. Improving patients understanding about why a particular treatment is important for her individual situation may lead to more informed decisions and better adherence to treatment.
Freedman also said in the analysis that better comprehension of ones tumor characteristics and the reasons for personalized treatment recommendations also could improve a womans trust, confidence, and satisfaction with her cancer treatment providers.
This is the first study to look at how much women know about their own cancers, according to a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute news release. Freedman noted in the release that a patient knowing his or her stage of cancer is important because it measures the patients risk. The study showed 57% of women surveyed knew their cancer stage.
Of all of these factors, a tumors grade is likely the least important element for patients to know, although physicians use grade to make decisions about treatments, including chemotherapy, Freedman said in the news release.
Freedman plans to also study how the communication styles of health care providers affect patient knowledge, according to the news release.