Dr. Reshma Jagsi, of the University of Michigan consults a patient on treatment options for early-stage breast cancer. Photo courtesy Michigan Medicine
Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Personal values and general approaches to decision-making are the primary drivers of what types of treatment women choose when diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a new study by researchers at University of Michigan.
The study, published today in Cancer, found that more than half of women with early-stage breast cancer considered an aggressive type of surgery to remove both breasts, known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy.
More than 20 percent of patients diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast considered having both breasts removed.
"The decision-making process is complicated. We found there are a lot of values that come into play," Sarah T. Hawley, professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine, said in a news release.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center surveyed 2,362 women who were newly diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, asking how strongly they considered prophylactic contralateral mastectomy for treatment.
The study showed 54 percent of women reported considering double mastectomy and one-quarter said they would strongly considered the aggressive procedure.
"Fears about radiation are common, so it is very important to make sure women are fully informed before they make the decision to pursue much more aggressive surgery than they need," Dr. Reshma Jagsi, professor and deputy chair of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine, said.
"We need to make sure women understand how far technology has advanced to make radiation treatment safe and tolerable. We also need to make sure women understand that even after mastectomy radiation might be recommended, if the cancer has certain features."
Researchers found that women who wanted to make their own decision a majority of the time, instead of relying on their doctors, gravitated toward double mastectomy.
"If physicians have feedback that a patient likes to make decisions a certain way, they can understand the patient's emotional processing and help the patient make a decision that meets her needs physically and emotionally," Hawley said.