A new study has found that women with breast cancer are often not aware of the kind of tumors they are suffering from.
Study lead author Dr. Rachel Freedman, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said even if not knowing the tumor type or features has necessarily any association with the worse outcomes, but a better and complete knowledge of the disease can obviously help the patient understand treatment decisions and take medications as per the direction.
For the new study, the researchers involved 500 women from northern California and asked them about their breast cancers, diagnosed from 2010 to 2011.
All the participants were surveyed about their tumor stage, tumor grade and whether their cancer feeds off protein human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) or hormone estrogen.
55 percent of the participants said they knew if their breast tumor fed off estrogen, while nearly a third of total participants said they were aware of their HER2 status. Nearly a third of women said they knew their grade of tumor, and 82 percent said they knew their stage of tumor, i.e. how advanced the cancer is.
On the basis of their medical records, just 56 percent of the participants reported the correct status of estrogen, 57 percent reported the correct stage and 58 percent reported the correct status of HER2. Only nearly one in five women reported the correct grade. Only 8 percent rightly answered all the four questions, but the lack of knowledge was more pronounced among minority women, according to the researchers.
“Even though all these questions were low for all women, we did see difference by race and ethnicity. What’s really nice about finding something like this is that it’s a modifiable problem. If you can improve education and provider awareness of this, you can do something about this in the clinic,” Freedman said.
The results show that oncologists need to tailor their discussions about cancer to individual patients as much as they tailor the treatments, she said.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Cancer.