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Breast Cancer Prevention: Methods of Risk Communication
The possibility of developing breast cancer, as with all life-threatening diseases, is laden with fear. This fear, combined with often conflicting and confusing messages from medical research, the media, and community campaigns, can result in high levels of anxiety among women and overestimation of personal breast cancer risk. Rational, well informed decision-making is particularly difficult in this setting.
The goal of the proposed research is to inform and guide patient risk communication efforts in order to improve patient decision-making. Using breast cancer prevention as the clinical context, this research will study barriers to risk comprehension and analyze patient abilities with and preferences regarding breast cancer risk communication formats.
The research will carry out the following Specific Aims:
AIM 1: Identify the association between risk comprehension abilities and anxiety, depression and numeracy in women eligible for breast cancer prevention.
(1.1) Develop a risk comprehension instrument appropriate for this population.
(1.2) Collect primary data on risk comprehension, anxiety, depression, and numeracy in the general population and women eligible for breast cancer prevention.
(1.3) Analyze data to determine if thresholds exist for successful risk comprehension with respect to anxiety, depression and numeracy levels.
AIM 2: Conduct focus groups to collect data about women’s abilities with and preferences for various risk communication methods.
AIM 3: Determine the roles of ethnicity, age, and education in women’s risk communication.
(3.1) Analyze data collected in Aim 1 to determine the association between barriers to risk comprehension and ethnicity, age and education.
(3.2) Analyze data collected in Aim 2 to determine the association between risk abilities and preferences and ethnicity, age and education.
The proposed project will study women’s ability to understand and comprehend different risk communication methods. It will inform and guide risk communication efforts for patients, thereby improving the quality of patient decision-making processes and ultimately patient health outcomes.
Although information about breast cancer risk and prevention is readily available, very little is presented in a clear, accessible manner for women at risk for breast cancer. Media reports, community campaigns, and numerous websites provide a tremendous amount of information about breast cancer, often with conflicting or confusing information. This results in poorly informed women. Often women with an exaggerated estimate of their breast cancer risk are overly focused on their breast cancer risk when they are at much more risk of heart disease or lung cancer, risks that can often be significantly decreased through lifestyle changes. Other women are adamantly against possible prevention interventions due to their inaccurate beliefs about potential side effects associated with these options, even if their breast cancer risk is quite high and more significant than other health threats they may face. Rational, well informed decision making by patients is difficult in this setting.
The proposed research will study barriers to risk communication, with the aim of understanding why current methods of communication may succeed or fail. The study will analyze the relationship between patient risk comprehension and common barriers to communication in the medical setting including anxiety, depression, and numeracy. The proposed project will also explore patients’ ability to understand and comprehend different risk communication methods, serving to guide future efforts in the field of risk communication. Additionally, the roles of ethnicity, age, and education will be explored in relation to women’s risk communication.
In summary, the proposed research will inform and guide risk communication efforts for patients, thereby improving the quality of patient decision-making processes and ultimately patient health outcomes.