Women with Breast Cancer Need Time to Process Diagnosis Prior to Treatment Selection

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – In-depth interviews with 60 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer have shed light on why half refused some or all conventional treatment and opted for alternative therapies and why 30 accepted both conventional and alternative treatments, a study in the May issue of The Oncologist reports.

“Negative first experiences with ‘uncaring, insensitive, and unnecessarily harsh' oncologists, fear of side effects, and belief in the efficacy of alternative therapies were key factors in the decision to reject potentially life-prolonging conventional therapy,” the investigators found.

They sought to understand why some women reject conventional treatment for breast cancer, which is highly treatable, and instead select unproven “alternative therapy” that may contribute to poor health outcomes. Also identified were “message that might lead to greater acceptance of evidence-based treatment.” All patients completed the Beck Anxiety Inventory and the Rotter Locus of Control scale.

Women who refused conventional treatment were found to differ from control in perceptions of the value of conventional treatment, they found. Compared with controls, these women believed that chemotherapy and radiotherapy were both risker (P<0.0073) and less beneficial (P<0.0001).

In contrast, those in the control group perceived alternative medicine alone to be riskier than those who refused conventional treatment, citing its unproven value in treating cancer (P<0.0001). “Refusers believed they could heal themselves naturally from cancer with simple holistic methods like raw fruits, vegetables, and supplements,” they noted.

According to interviewees, a compassionate approach to cancer care plus physicians who acknowledge their fears, communicate hope, educate them about their options, and allow them time to come to terms with their diagnosis before starting treatment might have led them to better treatment choices,” the authors concluded.

Abstract (full text available with free registration)

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