Decisions about medication are governed by the risk involved

December 14th, 2007 - 3:28 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 14(ANI): A survey conducted at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre has revealed that decisions people take are influenced by the amount of risk that is perceived.

The finding is based on a study in which women suffering from breast cancer were questioned about their medication use depending upon the average risk of the cancer.

The survey led by Angela Fagerlin, research assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and an investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, suggests that women who were told their risk of breast cancer was above average were more likely to endorse taking a hypothetical pill than women who were told their risk was below average.

The researchers surveyed 249 random women in a hospital cafeteria where they were given a scenario in which their own risk of breast cancer was 6 percent.

Half of the women were told the average risk of breast cancer was 12 percent; the other half was told the risk was 3 percent.

Then hypothetically, they were told that there was a pill that would reduce their breast cancer risk to 3 percent, but can also have side effects like small risk of cataracts, stroke or heart attack and hot flashes.

62 percent of the women said the average risk information was helpful enough in making a decision about whether to take the drug or not.

However the researchers feel that the influence could be dangerous and it is important to focus on risk and the benefits from the treatment.

Whats really important is to focus on your risk and the benefits you could get from a treatment. Knowing how ones own risk compared to the average womans risk actually changed peoples decisions, said Fagerlin

Its very worrisome that this piece of information had an influential impact on a womans perceptions of a breast cancer prevention drug, she added.

The study authors argue that comparing individual risk against average could lead people to make poor decisions.

Women with below-average risk might think they can skip their yearly mammogram. On the other hand, women at high-risk might undergo risky treatments that they might otherwise not have chosen.

When you give women their five-year risk of breast cancer, it might be 3 percent, and that 3 percent seems really low. But the way women tend to use comparative information is worrisome, she said.

Fagerlin also said that people should focus on their own risk and the decision should not be influenced by whether their risks or benefits are greater or less than another person.

The risk estimates used in the study were fictitious. The drug mentioned is modeled after tamoxifen, which can be given to women at high risk of breast cancer to help prevent the disease.

The findings are published in the December issue of Patient Education and Counseling. (ANI)

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