A new study shows that most women either do not know or have the wrong information about the stage of their breast cancer tumor.

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Having the accurate information helps women better comply with treatments. Empowered Doctor has created a brief guide to Breast Cancer Tumor Staging.

The majority of women (82 percent) reported that they did know their tumor’s stage. Only a third knew its grade. More than half said they knew if they tumor had estrogen affinity. A third said they knew their HER2 status.

Not knowing the actual details of the staging and grades of one’s breast cancer isn’t necessarily tied to survival rates and outcomes. However, it does make a difference in how a woman feels about her treatment. This in turn has implications on how well a patient complies with medication and treatment protocols.

These are some of the conclusions drawn by Dr. Rachel Freedman. Dr. Freedman, from the Dana-Farber Institute in Boston, was the lead author of a study published online in Cancer. In addition to better compliance, patients who understand the reason for treatment protocols report higher levels of satisfaction with their doctor and treatment.

According to Dr. Freedman, this may be the first study of its kind – exploring how well woman understand the details of their breast cancer. For the new study, published in the journal Cancer, Freedman and her colleagues asked 500 women from northern California about their breast cancers, which had been diagnosed between 2010 and 2011.

Participants were asked four questions:

    What was their tumor’s stage
    What was the tumor’s grade
    Does their tumor feed off estrogen
    What is their human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status.

The majority of women (82 percent) reported that they did know their tumor’s stage. Only a third knew its grade. More than half said they knew if they tumor had estrogen affinity. A third said they knew their HER2 status.

However, medical records revealed discrepancies between what women thought they knew about their cancer and the reality:

    57 percent reported the correct stage.
    About 20% reported correct grade.
    56 percent were correct about estrogen status,
    58 percent reported the correct HER2 status

Only 8 percent of women correctly answered all four questions. The wrong assessments were higher amongst minority women.

The take away, according to Dr. Freedman, is that doctors should spend as much time as necessary to fully explain the disease, as well as a treatment protocols, to their patients. Also, each conversation should be tailored to the patient.

To see the full infographic, click here.

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Michael Foti
Empowered Doctor
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