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10 ways to make better decisions about cancer care
Date:9/20/2011

has shown that using relative risk makes both patients and doctors more likely to favor a treatment, because they believe it to be more beneficial than it actually may be.

If, instead, your doctor told you that, "The drug will lower your risk of cancer from 4 percent to 2 percent," now you know that most people won't get cancer regardless. And it will give you the exact benefit you would get from taking the drug. Fagerlin suggests asking doctors for this absolute risk information for a truer picture.

3. Visualize your risk. Instead of just thinking about risk numbers, try drawing out 100 boxes and coloring in one box for each percentage point of risk. So, if your risk of a side effect is 10 percent, you would color in 10 boxes. This kind of visual representation, called a pictograph, can help people understand the meaning behind the numbers. Ask your doctor to draw it out for you, or do it yourself.

4. Consider risk as a frequency rather than as percentages. What does it mean to say 60 percent of men who have a radical prostatectomy will experience impotence? Imagine a roomful of 100 people: 60 of them will have this side effect and 40 will not. Thinking of risk in terms of groups of people can help make statistics easier to understand.

5. Focus on the additional risk. You may be told the risk of a certain side effect occurring is 7 percent. But if you didn't take the drug, is there a chance you'd still experience that? Ask what the additional or incremental risk of a treatment is. "You want to make sure the risk number you're being presented is the risk due to the treatment and not a risk you would face no matter what," Fagerlin says.

6. The order of information matters. Studies have shown that the last thing you hear is most likely to stick. When making a treatment decision, don't forget to consider all of the information and statistics you've learned.

7. Write it down. You may be presented with a lot of inf
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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