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Patient Perspective on Risk

Women's Perceptions about Recurrence and Desire for Information

A recent Roper survey of 300 women with early breast cancer, who are receiving or who completed treatment, showed that most women with the disease are concerned about their risk of recurrence. Nearly all of the women surveyed, regardless of whether they had completed or were still receiving adjuvant hormonal therapy, said they want to learn more about risk of recurrence and do whatever they can to prevent it. According to the survey results:

  • 49% of women with early breast cancer who had completed adjuvant hormonal therapy and 58% of women who are currently receiving adjuvant hormonal therapy indicated that they "still worry about [their] cancer returning in the future."
  • 95% of women who had completed adjuvant hormonal therapy and 95% of women still receiving adjuvant hormonal therapy say they want to learn everything they can about preventing recurrence.
  • Also, 84% of women who had completed adjuvant hormonal therapy and 87% of women who are still receiving adjuvant hormonal therapy believe that it is "critical" or "very important" that they do everything they can to reduce the risk of their breast cancer returning.

Despite women's concern about recurrence and their desire for information, the Roper survey found that a significant number of women have not discussed the risk of recurrence, following five years of adjuvant therapy, with their health care providers.

  • Nearly one-quarter of women with early breast cancer who had completed adjuvant hormonal therapy and 40% of the women who are still receiving adjuvant hormonal therapy say they have never discussed with their health care provider their risk of breast cancer coming back once they have completed five years of adjuvant hormonal therapy.

These results clearly demonstrate that women who have been treated for early breast cancer still worry about the chance that their cancer might come back. They recognize the importance of ongoing risk for recurrence but feel they are not currently getting all of the information that they need if they are to make informed decisions with their health care professionals about prevention of breast cancer recurrence. These results also indicate there is a breakdown in communication between women and their health care professionals-either providers are not communicating sufficient information or patients are not recalling important communicated information, or both. Clearly there are gaps and challenges in the communication process, which must be understood and overcome if women with early breast cancer are to make informed decisions.

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