Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Instilling Confidence in Women through Shared Decision Making

October 11, 2013 in Member Stories

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2013, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in females, exceeded only by lung cancer.  For the 28th consecutive year, the sea of pink can be seen almost everywhere as individuals, charitable organizations and commercial organizations across the country once again joining forces in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the many women affected by breast cancer.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a scary and overwhelming experience for women and their families.  That’s why it’s important that they have access to resources that will fully inform them about their medical condition, allowing them to make an educated decision about what treatment option is best for them, personally.  And because there are several treatment options – each with differentl risks and benefits – it’s even more important that a patient’s personal preference drive a treatment decision.   This concept of empowering patients and their families to make informed decisions about their condition and treatment—decisions that are aligned with their values, preferences and lifestyles – is called Shared Decision Making.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Health Dialog is making its Shared Decision Making and planning aids on breast cancer publically available throughout the month. The early stage breast cancer and breast reconstruction surgery decision aids help guide patients through all stages of the decision making process, from explaining how to read a pathology report to illustrating what a patient can expect from different types of surgeries. Health Dialog also offers planning aids for patients and families who are having needle or breast biopsies to prepare for what will happen before, during and after the procedures.  All of these aids and resources can be accessed by clicking here.

The Shared Decision Making process aims to give patients the care they want and nothing more. The process involves patient use of shared-decision making aids with constructive discussion between the patient and a healthcare provider. Shared decision aids come in various forms—print, online and video—and are designed using clear and simple language in order to prepare all people to participate in their health care and health care decisions. They provide balanced information about options and outcomes from the patient’s point of view and help the patient clarify their own personal values. Patient decision aids are designed to complement, rather than replace, counseling from a healthcare professional.

So, as we come together for a good cause this month, let’s all remember the patient and the fight they are each individually undertaking. By putting the tools and resources they need at their disposal we help them feel a little more confident.

Peter Goldbach, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer at Health Dialog, a leading provider of healthcare analytics and decision support. He has 15 years of experience in medical administration and 17 years maintaining a primary care and pulmonary disease practice. He received an undergraduate and master’s degree from UCLA and his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine. 

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