The Number of Women Who Don’t Know What Kind of Breast Cancer They Have Will Shock You

A study published online in the journal Cancer found that many women with breast cancer do not understand their condition. What’s more, minority patients are less likely to know about the characteristics of their tumor than white women.

The study was conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Researchers asked 500 women who have breast cancer about their stage, receptor status and grade of the disease. About 32 to 82 percent of the patients said they knew these three terms were characteristics of their tumors, but only 20 to 58 percent could specify what they meant.

There was also a clear difference in knowledge by race, with individuals of Hispanic or African descent falling toward the lower end of the range than the study’s white participants. The report states that the discrepancy with Hispanic women could be because of a language barrier. Black women’s lack of knowledge, however, was not as easily explained and is a sign of the poor job our society has done of making healthcare accessible and understandable for all.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Monkey Business
Photo: Adobe Stock/Monkey Business

This study was the first of its kind, but researchers believe that they have clearly identified a need to provide better patient information and education, especially for individuals of color. Cancer is scary enough, but we can’t imagine what it’s like to not have any idea what’s actually happening in your body.

Some women are afraid to ask questions of their doctor. Do not hesitate to ask your physician about your disease. In order to make an informed decision about treatment, it is necessary to fully understand exactly what type of cancer you have. If you are nervous about asking your doctor what some of the more complicated cancer terms mean, check out other resources too. There are plenty of internet resources that can fully flesh out what each term means.

Talking with other cancer survivors can also be a helpful resource when it comes to understanding the disease. They have been there or are in similar situations to what you are going through and can offer valuable insight into the disease.

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