Women With Breast Cancer Deserve to Plan Their Own Treatment

woman being ignored by her doctorImagine being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer ... but having no say in what kind of treatment you're given. As shocking as that scenario may sound, it's often the reality for women whose doctors take the reins in a big way. A new survey published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that about two-thirds of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer want to be involved in decision-making about their treatment, but 46 out of every 100 reported that their doctor ended up making the decision. Yeesh!

Seems totally wrong, especially in an era when we're all being encouraged to act as our own health advocates and take an active role in our health care. After all, this isn't the 1950s, when we're blindly following every little tidbit of advice and taking every pill from the man in the white coat without question.

Still, the survey results beg the question: If women want to be participating more, what's stopping them? Thankfully, the researchers figured that out.

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It seems like it's a combination of things. For one, the researchers say "clinicians think most patients don't want to participate in decisions, particularly around serious things like cancer." Uh ... you would think the serious things would be the most important for patients to get involved with? At least, that's how I would feel. Clearly, we need research like this to prove to doctors that they can't assume a patient wants to take a pass on making decisions about their own care.

At the same time, not understanding the options or the fact that there are options plural can inhibit women from speaking up. It makes sense that once patients realize there are multiple ways to treat early stage breast cancer, they tend to want to be more active in the decision-making process

After all, knowledge is power. The researchers pointed out that women who were more involved "were less conflicted over the decision, more satisfied with their ultimate decision, more satisfied with the consultation communication" than women who had less involvement. Awesome. Hopefully docs and patients start working together to make sure that actively involved breast cancer patients are the rule, not the exception.

Do you get involved with the decision-making behind your own medical treatment?

 

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