February 23, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 8


Of Note


New tool aids doctors, breast cancer patients

A powerful tool for helping doctors and patients discuss treatment options of early breast cancer was reported Feb. 15 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This tool was developed by a UTHSC team led by Dr. Peter M. Ravdin in collaboration with a Case Western Reserve University team led by Dr. Laura Siminoff.Breast Cancer Adjuvant Therapy flowchart

This tool is a computer program that produces easy-to-review printed sheets of what can be gained by different cancer therapy options. "In prior work, we found that even after talking with their doctors, many women seemed not to have effectively gotten information about the relative benefits of various therapies," Dr. Ravdin said. "We have produced a tool that shows, with large USA Today-type printed format in graphs and text, what the chances are for 10-year survival of breast cancer."

In a related study, respondents said providing and receiving this type of information is useful in the decision-making process. Clinical trials show that new therapies improve patients' outlook by a few percentage points but often present side effects. "Picking among the options can be made easier by giving the patient more information so that she is a true participant in selecting which therapy might be best for her," Dr. Ravdin said.

The computer program makes use of the latest information from international studies of the effectiveness of treatment options. It also uses recent information from U.S. tumor registries about patients' risk of dying of breast cancer, including statistics based on tumor size, the biochemical characteristics of a tumor, and whether a tumor shows signs of early spread to lymph nodes.

It also includes links to sources for national treatment guidelines governing the use of standard therapies and to sources for national clinical trial opportunities designed to improve treatment options. "Treatment guidelines have great value, but they do not supercede the importance of informing patients and the importance of individual treatment choice. This tool empowers patients in this process," Dr. Ravdin said.

Additional information about this tool can be obtained at www.adjuvantsite.com.