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Women well informed about breast cancer, yet lacking knowledge about current treatments

According to a new GfK Roper Public Affairs survey sponsored by CancerCare, a national nonprofit cancer support organization, while the majority (76 percent) of women surveyed said they know at least a fair amount about breast cancer, many remain unaware of the important recent progress made in treatment. Fewer than one out of four (23 percent) women ages 50-65 have heard of new therapies for breast cancer, revealing a gap between awareness and information that women can use toward better treatment.

“These survey results suggest that many women still lack essential disease treatment information, which reinforces the need for women to educate themselves to help get the best treatment,” said Diane Blum, MSW, executive director of CancerCare. “While great progress has been made in breast cancer awareness through public education and increased media coverage, women with breast cancer would benefit from more information about advances in treatments after surgery.”

According to the survey, nearly all respondents were aware of chemotherapy and radiation. However, fewer than one out of four had heard of newer therapies such as aromatase inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies, nor were they informed about their benefits.

Doctor-patient dialogue is vital

If diagnosed, the majority of respondents said they would actively work with their doctor to identify the proper treatment. The survey also found that 71 percent of women would research the condition on their own in addition to discussing treatment options with their doctor. However, 86 percent were not certain they would know what questions to ask.

“Communication between the patients and their physicians is so important because it empowers them to take an active role in their treatment decisions,” explained Gary Frenette, MD PhD Medical Oncologist with Carolinas Medical Center. “With essential information, patients can work with their physicians to achie ve the best possible outcomes in the management of their diagnosis.”

Key questions

Today, many women want to take an active role in participating in their treatment. CancerCare recommends that women consider the following questions to better prepare them should they face a breast cancer diagnosis:

  • What kind of breast cancer do I have"
  • Which treatments are available to me"
  • What are the risks and benefits of those treatments"
  • What is my risk that my breast cancer will come back and/or spread to another part of my body"
  • Where do I go for support when I need it"

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