Which Surgery Option Is for Me? A Decision Aid to Guide Breast Cancer Patients

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


March 09, 2018

Women with recently diagnosed breast cancer are often confused about the numerous available treatment options. The aim of a study, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Surgery ,[1] was to examine breast cancer patients' knowledge about surgical treatment options after sending the women links to either a specially prepared Web-based decision aid or to standard websites, such as those of the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

Knowledge questions in the surveys included such items as the survival impact of waiting a few weeks, relative survival after each surgical procedure, and the risk for a second operation. Patient knowledge scores were significantly higher after reviewing the specially prepared Web-based decision aid compared with the standard websites (P = .01), but this difference was mainly caused by better knowledge about the unimportance of waiting a few weeks before receiving definitive treatment.


This report found that after being diagnosed with breast cancer, women benefited from reading about options as presented in guides designed to help understand the available options, and that a specially designed Web-based program was somewhat superior to other Internet programs.

Breast cancer decision aids have proven to be helpful, although, as the authors point out, only a minority of patients use them. The authors stressed the importance of timing of exposure to a knowledge source. The best time appears to be after the diagnosis of breast cancer, but before actual contact with a surgeon. It helped the patient better understand options and have a more intelligent conversation with the surgeon before making a final treatment decision.

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