Why Many Breast Cancer Patients Short-Circuit Their Treatment

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MONDAY, Nov. 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Many breast cancer patients skip recommended treatment after surgery because they lack faith in the health care system, a new study indicates.

A patient survey found those who reported a general distrust of medical institutions and insurers were more likely to forgo follow-up breast cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation. Trust or distrust of their own doctors did not emerge as a factor.

"If we want more women with breast cancer to complete their treatment, we'll need to deal with their beliefs about the health care system -- and I do think we can modify those beliefs," said study lead author Lorraine Dean. She's an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.

Dean's team surveyed more than 2,700 patients in Florida and Pennsylvania after breast cancer surgery. More than 30 percent disregarded their doctor's advice to start or complete follow-up therapy aimed at killing any remaining tumor cells.

Patients who opted out of follow-up treatment were 40 percent more likely to have a cancer recurrence during the two-year study period than those who followed their doctor's recommendations, the researchers found.

"While it is surprising in general that nearly one-third of patients are not following up with recommended adjuvant treatment, some earlier, more localized studies have reported even higher discordance rates, and it's possible that our own figures would have been higher if we had followed patients for more than two years," Dean said in a university news release.

The researchers said their hope is to improve patients' long-term outcomes by boosting rates of adherence to treatment.

"Improving health care system distrust may require strategies that are not solely focused on boosting physician trust," Dean said.

"If ordinary businesses can learn to increase trust in their brands, why not the same with health care institutions?" she concluded.

The study was published recently in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, Nov. 1, 2017

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3 Comments

Thu Nov 09, 2017 02:23 PM

""If we want more women with breast cancer to complete their treatment, we'll need to deal with their beliefs about the health care system..." I think what also, urgently needs dealing with, is the lack of effectiveness in terms of actual, not 5 years from time of diagnosis, survival rate AND the debilitating side effects (both short term and very long term.

Thu Nov 09, 2017 05:47 PM

We need to find a way to bring complementary practitioners who specialize in nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle (exercise, stress management, sleep) onto the allopathic team. We also need to look toward chemo-sensitivity testing to help choose the right treatment, not just the standard of care. It’s only with a comprehensive approach can we expect to achieve better results. It’s no wonder women skip chemo and radiation when they are faced with doctors who ridicule them for believing there is more to treatment than these barbaric and ineffective therapies that are target practice at best. I’m alive today (Stage 4 bc) because I sought out an oncologist who works outside the insurance-driven health care system. He used chemosensitivity testing to choose BOTH chemo drugs and nutritional supplements and herbs that would be most effective against my cancer (and they weren’t taxotere and Carboplatin, the standard of care). He also offered insulin-potentiated chemotherapy with 10% of the drugs’ dosages, which reduced side effects dramatically. This protocol is not accepted in the U.S. unless the oncologist is double board certified in homeopathy. Wonder why? Drug companies would lose 90% of their profit! My liver and bone Mets disappeared in 3 months, and I’ve been in remission for nearly 3 years with no evidence of disease. Yes, this is an expensive road. My insurance only covered a small portion of my treatment, and the supplements and herbs are costly. I can’t completely walk away from traditional oncology as I was HER2+ and monoclonal antibody drugs are another important part of my program. But I am thankful that I found a way to marry the best of traditional and integrative oncology. Maria Bachteal www.healingnutritionofsonoma.com

Thu Nov 09, 2017 05:47 PM

We need to find a way to bring complementary practitioners who specialize in nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle (exercise, stress management, sleep) onto the allopathic team. We also need to look toward chemo-sensitivity testing to help choose the right treatment, not just the standard of care. It’s only with a comprehensive approach can we expect to achieve better results. It’s no wonder women skip chemo and radiation when they are faced with doctors who ridicule them for believing there is more to treatment than these barbaric and ineffective therapies that are target practice at best. I’m alive today (Stage 4 bc) because I sought out an oncologist who works outside the insurance-driven health care system. He used chemosensitivity testing to choose BOTH chemo drugs and nutritional supplements and herbs that would be most effective against my cancer (and they weren’t taxotere and Carboplatin, the standard of care). He also offered insulin-potentiated chemotherapy with 10% of the drugs’ dosages, which reduced side effects dramatically. This protocol is not accepted in the U.S. unless the oncologist is double board certified in homeopathy. Wonder why? Drug companies would lose 90% of their profit! My liver and bone Mets disappeared in 3 months, and I’ve been in remission for nearly 3 years with no evidence of disease. Yes, this is an expensive road. My insurance only covered a small portion of my treatment, and the supplements and herbs are costly. I can’t completely walk away from traditional oncology as I was HER2+ and monoclonal antibody drugs are another important part of my program. But I am thankful that I found a way to marry the best of traditional and integrative oncology. Maria Bachteal www.healingnutritionofsonoma.com
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