Cancer Patients Need to Know the Numbers When Making Treatment Decisions

Cancer Patients Need to Know the Numbers When Making Treatment Decisions
Risk calculations, treatment evaluations, and assessing the odds of a medication's side effects are all part of the process of deciding which treatment is best for breast and other cancers. But not everyone is good at math, and sometimes this process can be intimidating. For these patients, decision science research can offer well-founded advice on how to evaluate the information and make knowledgeable decisions. Research on cancer patients' health and numeracy was presented by Ellen Peters, a professor at The Ohio State University and director of the Decision Sciences Collaborative, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb. 20 in Boston. "The ability to understand numbers is associated with all kinds of positive health outcomes, including for cancer patients," Peters said in a press release. "The problem is that too many people aren't good with numbers or are afraid of math. But we're starting to figure out the best ways to help these patients so they aren't at a disadvantage when it comes to their treatment,” she said. People who aren't good with numbers often report worse health outcomes, which Peters said is an example of the “tyranny of numbers.” For example, diabetic patients with lower numeracy scores often have higher blood sugar levels, an effect that often passes on to their children. Another example from a 2010 research study showed how numeracy can also impact breast cancer treatment decisions. Women who had undergone surgery were presented wit
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