Breast cancer affects more than 200-thousand women in North America each year. Each of those women has to decide what sort of treatment to choose.
A new study shows that a visual aid known as a decision board can help breast cancer patients with what could be the most important decision of their lives.
Dr. Timothy Whelan with McMaster University, uses a visual aid, known as a decision board, to discuss treatment options with breast cancer patients, like Eileen Burris. One choice is mastectomy, the other is lumpectomy plus radiation, in which only the cancer is removed, not the whole breast.
Eileen says it was very difficult last year when she learned she had breast cancer, and had to make her treatment decision.
That's why Dr. Whelan and his colleagues at McMaster University and three other Canadian institutions designed this decision board. The board has sliding doors that reveal information slowly while the surgeon talks, so the patient can more easily process and absorb what she's hearing.
The researchers enrolled twenty surgeons in their study. Half got decision boards to use with their breast cancer patients, half did not. So ninety-four patients used the decision boards with their did the surgeons, and one-hundred seven patients did not use the decision boards.
According to Dr Whelan, the decision board made a difference.
"Women who used the decision board were more knowledgeable and had an improved understanding about breast cancer and its treatment."
Wheeler also say the women felt better about the treatment they chose. He and other researchers found that women who used the decision board were more likely to choose the lumpectomy and radiation than the mastectomy.
"This suggests that perhaps when the board wasn't used, that women didn't clearly understand that they had two treatment options and that both were equally the same in terms of survival. But that when decision board was used, they understood that clearly."