When a woman walks into the oncologist's office, she's usually not alone. In fact, a new study finds that half of women have at least three people standing behind them, sitting next to them or waiting at home to help.
In most cases, these support people are going with the patient to appointments, taking notes, finding additional resources and helping talk through treatment options.
"People just diagnosed with cancer are often scared and overwhelmed. Having another person to help them process information is important," says IHPI member Lauren P. Wallner, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of general medicine and epidemiology at U-M. Wallner is the lead author of the paper, published in the journal Cancer.
"Physicians need to recognize that women involve other people in their treatment decisions. These people represent an important group to provide information about treatment options," Wallner notes.
The study surveyed 2,502 women with early stage breast cancer about two months after they had surgery. Women were asked to list specific individuals who were involved in helping them make a treatment decision.
Half of the respondents listed at least three people and 20 percent listed two people. Only 10 percent said they had no personal decision support network. Nearly three-quarters of women said their support network talked with them about their treatment options and frequently attended their appointments.