11/11/2013 09:44 am ET

Physicians Need to Help Women Close the Knowledge Gap About Breast Cancer Treatment Options

It's widely known that celebrities impact consumer opinions when it comes to fashion choices, hairstyles, cars and vacations spots. But, according to a survey commissioned by The BC5 Project, a group focused on broadening awareness of breast cancer treatment options, famous personalities may also be impacting important medical decisions.

According to a national survey of 100 women aged 50+ who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, more than half of the women surveyed believed that actor Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy will make other women more comfortable choosing to do the same.

While Jolie's decision was the right one for her based on her circumstances, breast cancer treatment requires customized, individualized decision making.

Also of concern is data from a recent Harvard/Dana Farber study, which shows the growing number of women who are inclined to have their breasts surgically removed as an alternative to equally effective breast conserving surgery. It begs the question of whether or not women are fully aware of all their options.

According to The BC5 Project survey, they are not. The findings point out that some women are opting for treatments without full knowledge of all the therapies available to them. One-third of women surveyed were only presented with one treatment option from their doctor, and only 27 percent sought a second opinion on their diagnosis or treatment.

When asked specifically about Breast Brachytherapy, for example, a five-day radiation therapy also known as APBI, less than one in 10 women even knew the option existed. A full three-quarters of women who would have been candidates for the treatment report that they would have been interested in the therapy.

This is just one example of how the lack of knowledge about options is affecting women and their treatment choices. As physicians, we should strive to take on a more active role becoming aware of all the options ourselves, so we can better educate women and close this knowledge gap.