Women Well-Informed About Breast Cancer, Yet Lacking Knowledge About Current Treatments, New Survey Finds

CancerCare offers five questions to help women learn about breast cancer therapy advances.

New York, June 12, 2007—According to a new GfK Roper Public Affairs survey sponsored by CancerCare, a national nonprofit cancer support organization, while the majority (76 percent) of women surveyed say they know at least a fair amount about breast cancer, many remain unaware of the important recent progress made in treatment. Fewer than one out of four (23 percent) women ages 50-65 have heard of new therapies for breast cancer, revealing a gap between awareness and information that women can use toward better treatment.

“These survey results suggest that many women still lack essential disease treatment information, which reinforces the need for women to educate themselves to help get the best treatment,” said Diane Blum, MSW, executive director of CancerCare. “While great progress has been made in breast cancer awareness through public education and increased media coverage, women with breast cancer would benefit from more information about advances in treatments after surgery.”

According to the survey, nearly all respondents were aware of chemotherapy and radiation. However, fewer than one out of four had heard of newer therapies such as aromatase inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies, nor were they informed about their benefits.

Doctor-patient dialogue is vital. If diagnosed, the majority of respondents said they would actively work with their doctor to identify the proper treatment. The survey also found that 71 percent of women would research the condition on their own in addition to discussing treatment options with their doctor. However, 86 percent were not certain they would know what questions to ask.

“Communication between the patients and their physicians is so important because it empowers them to take an active role in their treatment decisions,” explained Dr. Gary Frenette, MD PhD Medical Oncologist with Carolinas Medical Center. “With essential information, patients can work with their physicians to achieve the best possible outcomes in the management of their diagnosis.”

Key questions. Today, many women want to take an active role in participating in their treatment. CancerCare recommends that women consider the following questions to better prepare them should they face a breast cancer diagnosis:

  • What kind of breast cancer do I have?
  • Which treatments are available to me?
  • What are the risks and benefits of those treatments?
  • What is my risk that my breast cancer will come back and/or spread to another part of my body?
  • Where do I go for support when I need it?

Read more key findings from the survey.

About the survey

The survey, sponsored by CancerCare and administered by GfK Roper Public Affairs was conducted between April 23 and May 9, 2007 via telephone among a national sample of 501 women between the ages of 50 and 65 years. Of these, 23 respondents were previously diagnosed with breast cancer. The sampling error is +/-4 percentage points. Support for the survey was provided by Novartis Oncology, www.novartisoncology.com.

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