Many Women With Breast Cancer Have Poor Understanding of Their Condition

Many Women With Breast Cancer Have Poor Understanding of Their Condition

breast cancerA recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, found that many women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis have a lack of understanding about their condition, with ethnicity strongly accounting for differences in this knowledge. These findings highlight the need to inform these women about their cancer features.

The team of researchers led by Rachel Freedman, MD, surveyed a total of 500 women to understand their degree of knowledge concerning tumor characteristics, whether racial/ethnic disparities in knowledge exist, and if education and health literacy influence associations. The assessement involved questions about these women’s cancer characteristics such as tumor stage, grade, and cancer subtype.

Results revealed that in the overall sample, 32% to 82% of women reported knowing each of the 4 tumor characteristics of interest, and 20% to 58% correctly reported them. When examining ethnic differences, the researchers found that African American and hispanic women were less likely than caucasian women to determine their cancers’ stage, ER status, and HER2 status. Furthermore, level of education and health literacy were associated with better knowledge about cancer characteristics, however, the ethnical trend remained.

Altogether, the research team concluded that patient’s knowledge about their own breast cancer was generally poor, particularly in women from a minority background. The results provide increased information for longitudinal studies assessing the impact of this knowledge in clinical care provision.

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“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 Dr. Freedman in a recent press release. “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.” Dr. Freedman also noted that “improved understanding of one’s tumor characteristics and the reasons for personalized treatment recommendations could also improve a woman’s trust, confidence, and satisfaction with her cancer treatment providers”.

The study entitled “Racial/ethnic disparities in knowledge about one’s breast cancer characteristics”, was published in the current issue of Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society.