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Communicating Risk

Risk Communication Between Women and Their Health Care Professionals: Communication Strategies are Key for Breast Cancer Treatment

Research about how patients and health care professionals communicate about risk may shed some light and help generate new tools for cancer risk communication in particular. Effectively communicating about cancer risk is fundamentally challenging for both health care professionals and women with breast cancer. Health care professionals may find it difficult to translate risk statistics to the individual because:

  • Communicating contradictory or inconclusive information to patients is emotionally difficult if they feel they are giving patients "bad news."
  • Patients may have trouble understanding complicated risk calculations and probabilities.
  • Patients may inaccurately interpret the science and develop greater or lesser perceptions of their risk relative to what was communicated.
  • Some women may not even want to discuss risk, because it can be frightening or depressing.

Because there are so many subjective elements involved on both sides of the communication process, there can be serious gaps that leave women without the information they need. There is a significant need for more research that will help health care professionals more effectively communicate risk information to their patients in a way that patients can accept and use.

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