NEW YORK--When diagnosed with breast cancer, "women have very different coping styles," Amy Langer said at a media briefing on molecular diagnostics in breast cancer, sponsored by Pharmacia Biotech.
"What we see at NABCO [National Coalition of Breast Cancer Organizations] are three basic types: the mostly older passive patient, the information seeker, and what we call the 'new patient,' mostly younger women," said Ms. Langer, NABCO's executive director.
A patient's reaction to the diagnosis of breast cancer depends on a number of factors, including personality, culture, and prior experience. "For example," she said, "if everyone you know who had breast cancer died from it, you have a very different concept of the disease than do those of us who have seen women with breast cancer live and prosper."
Other important influences include the patient's access to the health care system and to information about treatment options, and available support from family, friends, and health professionals.
An Outdated Model?
The passive patient "is in shock, in denial," Ms. Langer said. "She leaves decisions up to others, asks the doctor, What would you do? or What would do you do for your wife?" Her model for perceiving breast cancer may be outdated. For example, 40 years ago, people didn't talk about breast cancer, and mortality rates were much higher.
These patients may also be fatalistic, believing that the disease will take its predetermined course regardless of interventions. "There are certain cultures and belief systems that encourage the idea that cancer is in the hands of others, and it may be difficult to get that woman to partner with us in guiding her care."