A new study from the University of Michigan revealed that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to have a support group that aids them in making treatment decisions.1 The researchers’ findings revealed that half of the women surveyed (N = 2,502) with early-stage breast cancer had at least three support people who provided personal assistance, either at home or with them during an appointment.
"Physicians need to recognize that women involve other people in their treatment decisions. These people represent an important group to provide information about treatment options," said lead author Lauren Wallner, PhD, MPH, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "People just diagnosed with cancer are often scared and overwhelmed. Having another person to help them process information is important.”
Wallner and colleagues report that of all the women surveyed in the study, 51% had three or more support people and 20% had two support people; however, 11% revealed that they had no one helping them make treatment decisions. African-American women and Latina women had larger support networks than their Caucasian counterparts. Additionally, women with spouses reported additional support within their networks. Friends, children, siblings, parents, and other relatives were noted to provide decision-making assistance to unmarried or single women.
Interestingly, researchers noted that women with larger support groups were more deliberate about making treatment decisions that they felt could be a vital part of their care plan.
"The idea that women are discussing their options more with their family and friends and potentially thinking through that decision more carefully is reassuring. Engaging these informal support networks could be a way to prevent women from rushing into something,” explained Dr. Wallner.
Based on these research findings, it is recommended that physicians include these support groups in the decision-making process and provide the entire network with information and decision-making tools. In addition, because nurses and advanced practice nurses provide much of the education for patients and their families after a cancer diagnosis, this information will play a crucial role in how information is delivered and processed in daily practice.
Wallner LP, Li Y, McLeod MC, et al. Decision-support networks of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer. 2017 Jun 22. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30848. [Epub ahead of print]