Interactive tool improves patient knowledge of breast cancer treatment options

January 30, 2018 by Nicole Fawcett, University of Michigan
Interactive tool improves patient knowledge of breast cancer treatment options
Visual abstract. Credit: Michigan Medicine

Breast cancer patients face complex decisions about their treatment.

"Knowledge is a key component of , and yet it's consistently low even among who have received . We need better tools to make these decisions more informed," says Sarah T. Hawley, Ph.D., MPH, professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine.

Hawley and colleagues from the Cancer Surveillance and Outcomes Research Team at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center developed an interactive online to help patients understand their treatment options.

Compared to a static informational website, patients using the interactive tool had higher knowledge and felt more prepared to make a , according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers enrolled 537 patients with newly diagnosed early stage breast cancer from multiple practices spread throughout four states. Patients were randomized to view a tailored, interactive decision tool called iCanDecide or to view similar information on a static website. They were then surveyed about five weeks later, after making their treatment decision; 496 completed the survey.

Overall, 61 percent of patients who used the interactive tool had a high knowledge of , compared to 42 percent of patients who viewed the static material. Patients who used the were also more likely to say they felt prepared to make a treatment decision, 50 percent, compared to 33 percent of patients viewing static material.

The interactive site was designed to walk people systemically through key facts about breast cancer surgery, such as how often cancer recurs and the likelihood of needing additional surgery. A second module on the website helped patients understand options about systemic treatment, such as chemotherapy. The paper assesses only the surgery module.

"Instead of throwing the information on the website and hoping patients would figure it out, we gave them the bullet point fact, asked a question to see if they understood, and then allowed them to drill down and look at more detailed information. They couldn't just bounce around. They had to go through it in a linear fashion," Hawley says.

The tool also assessed patients' values, taking them through a series of hypothetical scenarios. In the end, each patient had a customized bar graphic that showed how their preferences matched to treatments. For example, if they valued keeping their natural breast, the lumpectomy bar would be higher. Patients could interact with the figure to learn more.

A similar number of patients from both groups reported making a choice in line with their values. Hawley stresses that assessing a patient's values is key.

"The values clarification is important. If you don't combine the knowledge and the values, you get people making values-based choices that may not be fully informed," Hawley says.

Researchers plan to further refine the timing of when to deliver tools and assess patient values.

Explore further: How decision-making habits influence the breast cancer treatments women consider

More information: Sarah T. Hawley et al, Improving Breast Cancer Surgical Treatment Decision Making: The iCanDecide Randomized Clinical Trial, Journal of Clinical Oncology (2018). DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2017.74.8442

Related Stories

How decision-making habits influence the breast cancer treatments women consider

August 15, 2017
A new study finds that more than half of women with early stage breast cancer considered an aggressive type of surgery to remove both breasts. The way women generally approach big decisions, combined with their values, impacts ...

Many women report not feeling completely informed about breast cancer treatment options

December 15, 2017
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, with more than 230,000 women diagnosed annually. (Skin cancer remains the most common.) Patients often describe the process of making a treatment ...

Team aims to help patients with cancer make complex care decisions

November 22, 2017
Researchers at the University of Virginia Cancer Center are developing a tool to help patients with prostate cancer better understand the potential risks and rewards of their treatment options. And that tool could ultimately ...

Most women who have double mastectomy don't need it, study finds

November 27, 2012
About 70 percent of women who have both breasts removed following a breast cancer diagnosis do so despite a very low risk of facing cancer in the healthy breast, new research from the University of Michigan Comprehensive ...

70-gene signature impacts treatment decisions in breast CA

October 29, 2017
(HealthDay)—The 70-gene signature (GS) assay affects treatment decisions among physicians treating patients identified as being at intermediate risk with the 21-gene assay (21-GA), according to a study published online ...

Recommended for you

Single-cell study in a childhood brain tumor affirms the importance of context

April 20, 2018
In defining the cellular context of diffuse midline gliomas, researchers find the cells fueling their growth and suggest a potential approach to treating them: forcing their cells to be more mature.

Aggressive breast cancer already has resistant tumour cells prior to chemotherapy

April 20, 2018
Difficult to treat and aggressive "triple-negative" breast cancer is chemoresistant even before chemotherapy begins, a new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center ...

Mechanism that drives development of liver cancer brought on by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease discovered

April 19, 2018
A team of researchers from several institutions in China has found a mechanism that appears to drive the development of a type of liver cancer not caused by alcohol consumption. In their paper published in the journal Science ...

Discovery adds to evidence that some children are predisposed to develop leukemia

April 19, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital researchers have made a discovery that expands the list of genes to include when screening individuals for possible increased susceptibility to childhood leukemia. The finding is reported ...

Scientists identify 170 potential lung cancer drug targets using unique cellular library

April 19, 2018
After testing more than 200,000 chemical compounds, UT Southwestern's Simmons Cancer Center researchers have identified 170 chemicals that are potential candidates for development into drug therapies for lung cancer.

Chip-based blood test for multiple myeloma could make bone biopsies a relic of the past

April 19, 2018
The diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells, traditionally forces patients to suffer through a painful bone biopsy. During that procedure, doctors insert a bone-biopsy needle through an ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.