A new study published in the Wiley Online Library journal entitled ‘Cancer’ indicates that most women who suffer from breast cancer lack information regarding the complexities of their tumor. Furthermore, increased awareness regarding their breast cancer tumor could help them when it comes to assessing treatment and medication options.
The study, led by Dr. Rachel Freedman, author from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, surveyed 500 women about their breast cancer tumors. Individuals who participated were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2011, and lived in northern California.
The women were asked about their tumor grade, the stage their tumor was in, and whether or not their cancer feeds off the hormone estrogen, or a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Of the women studied, 55% were aware of their tumor being fed off of estrogen, and approximately one third could comment on their HER2 status. Additionally, one third of the women knew their tumor’s grade, and 82 % of participants understood what stage their tumor was in. However when compared to their medical records, 56% of participants were correct on their estrogen status; 58% when it came to HER2 status; and 57 % were right regarding their tumor stage. Only one in five women relayed the proper information about the grade of their tumor within the study.
“What’s really nice about finding something like this is that it’s a modifiable problem,” Freedman said. “If you can improve education and provider awareness of this, you can do something about this in the clinic.”
Dr. Michelle Shayne of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York, who was not part of the research project, told Reuters Health, “Breast cancer patients in general are a very savvy group of individuals.”
Surprised by the findings, she also stated that breast cancer patients, “tend to read a lot and bring a lot of clippings in to their oncologist and ask a lot of questions.”
The outcome of the study has lent a spotlight for increased discussion and awareness for cancer patients from their oncologists. In addition, Freedman recommends cancer survivors receive detailed treatment histories when it comes to their tumors, for future medical reference.
“I think this raises awareness of the issue,” she said. “This may be a more important issue than we previously appreciated.”