Improving Breast Cancer Treatment Through Better Decisions

One of the biggest challenges facing doctors and their cancer patients is deciding on a treatment plan for a disease that has a relatively favorable prognosis.

As more breast cancers are found at an earlier stage, patients and doctors must consider the best way to treat the cancer without over treating the patient and causing unnecessary side effects and quality of life problems. For women with breast cancer, improving the quality of these treatment decisions has a high potential for improving the quality of their care.

Thanks to a $13.6 million grant, U-M breast cancer researchers and a national team will study how patients and doctors make breast cancer treatment decisions, and how to improve the process for better outcomes. The group expects to develop an online decision tool for patients to help improve the quality of their decision-making. This tool will be tested first in a clinical trial to measure its effectiveness.

The best treatment decisions are made when a patient and doctor really talk with each other. Still, the prospect of understanding your medical condition, what the treatment options are, the risks and benefits of each choice, and then deciding what treatment plan is right for you can seem overwhelming. Such things as underlying values, spiritual needs and family concerns are often just as important during the journey from treatment to recovery, but patients sometimes are not comfortable discussing these concerns with a stranger.

But there are good resources available to help patients prepare for the decisions ahead.

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