An interactive online tool has been shown to improve patient knowledge of breast cancer treatment options, compared with a static informational website.

“Knowledge about the risks and benefits of different treatment options remains pretty low, even among patients who have received treatment,” says Sarah Hawley, professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine. “We thought that there would be an opportunity to improve that by delivering knowledge in a very crisp and simple way.”

Sarah Hawley
Sarah Hawley

The Cancer Surveillance and Outcomes Research Team at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center developed the iCanDecide tool, which serves as a tailored decision aid for breast cancer patients faced with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment choices.

Results of a randomized trial of 537 patients newly diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In the study, 61 percent of patients who used the interactive tool had a high knowledge of treatment options vs. 42 percent of patients who viewed the static informational website. In addition, patients who used the interactive tool were more likely to indicate they felt prepared to make a treatment decision (50 percent), compared with 33 percent of patients who used the static material.

Also See: Online tool puts cancer patients at the center of their care

In putting together the content for the tool, Hawley and her colleagues identified eight key facts for breast cancer treatment that clinicians determined were critical for patients to know, including survival rates for different treatments.

Another interactive component of the tool provides an opportunity to assess patients’ values, which takes participants through a series of hypothetical scenarios.

“We assess the factors that are really important to patients, such as keeping their natural breast or avoiding radiation, and then we use that to generate a quantitative mapping of how those values relate to the treatments that they might be considering, and then show them visually,” adds Hawley.

There’s also a tailored testimonial section of the interactive tool which helps patients prepare to talk to their clinicians about treatment options.

“We have plans to do an additional study to continue to enhance the tool with some new content based on work that came out of the randomized trial, as well as a population-based survey that our group is doing,” concludes Hawley. “The next iteration, iCanDecide 2.0, will also have components to address and help patients manage emotions and anxieties around decision-making.”

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