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.

Continue learning how to become an empowered patient


A Mother, A Fighter, The Rose Run

By Jessica Cribbs

This is Jessica’s story of why she has been organizing the Rose Run for the past four years. The run this year benefits the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Oncology Program and Patient and Family Support Services.


On March 5, 2008, two little children were dancing around my feet when the phone rang. It was my mother’s voice on the other end.

The Rose Run is named in honor of Rose Marie Hunt.

I had been living in California for the past 5 years, and she was back home in Michigan. We talked often, but it was different this time. She was short, and to the point.

“Jess. The cancer came back.”

It took me a minute to register what she  just said, but it did not entirely take me by surprise. She had defeated cancer once already, in her early 40’s. She had been having regular back pain for months, which she had attributed to a fall on the ice earlier in the winter. However, she also seemed to be frequently ill. More frequent than a 50-some-year-old woman should be.

“What do you mean the cancer came back?” I asked, knowing that was impossible for her to answer.

“It’s not good, Jessie. The cancer is everywhere this time. It’s metastasized.” She went on to explain how she saw her scans and she looked like a lit-up Christmas tree spotted with tumors.

Our conversation was long that morning with many moments of silence – moments where all I could do was stare at the dining room table. I even asked her if she thought this was going to take her.

“I think so,” she calmly replied. Continue reading