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Speaking up is more vital than ever for women with advanced breast cancer, survey shows

(BPT) - Women with advanced breast cancer have different physical and emotional needs from those with early stage breast cancer, differences that are critical in the management of their disease. Advanced breast cancer, which includes Stage IV metastatic disease, occurs when the cancer has either spread to the lymph nodes or to other tissue in the breast or beyond into distant organs and tissues. Unlike women who have early stage breast cancer, those with advanced disease may stay on a treatment for the rest of their lives.

The Make Your Dialogue Count survey, commissioned by Novartis Oncology, was conducted online by Harris Poll in 2014 to better understand the treatment dialogue that takes place between advanced breast cancer patients (n=359), caregivers (n=234) and oncologists who treat the disease (n=252). The survey suggests that open and honest communication between women with advanced breast cancer and their healthcare providers is vital to help determine the best treatment plan to meet individual needs.

The Make Your Dialogue Count survey uncovered that nine out of 10 doctors (90 percent) wish they could do more to help patients manage their side effects. A total of 73 percent of patients agree that they want more information on how to prevent or minimize side effects.

“Side effects to treatments are something that I and many other women living with advanced breast cancer deal with daily,” said Shirley Mertz, President, Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. “It is so important to share them with your doctor or nurse because you can learn valuable tips on how to manage them.”

Communication gaps still exist between doctors and their patients when it comes to side effects. Almost one in five (19 percent) patients said they haven’t spoken to their doctor about side effects because they didn’t want to have to stop treatment because they were afraid to run out of options.

“It concerns me that women would not share their experiences with side effects with their physicians,” said Adam Brufsky, M.D., Medical Director of the Women's Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The Make Your Dialogue Count survey data reiterate how extremely important it is for patients, their family and oncologists to have a meaningful and honest two-way conversation. If physicians have a thorough understanding of patients’ full experiences, we can better work with them to manage their disease and potential side effects in hopes of improving quality of life for them and their families.”

For information about how to improve dialogue between patients and health care providers and more information about advanced breast cancer and the Make Your Dialogue Count survey findings, visit AdvancedBreastCancerCommunity.org.