Patient Empowerment Improves Treatment

[09/26/2000; Cable News Network]

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- Patient power has improved the treatment and care of breast cancer patients and led to increased funding to fight the killer disease, a leading expert said on Tuesday.

Dr. Martine Piccart, head of chemotherapy at the Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels, told the Second European Breast Cancer Conference that the involvement of patients in every aspect of their care had also been a crucial factor in breast cancer research.

"Patient power has been a positive force for good in improving clinical trial design, for example, as well as in encouraging people to take part in clinical trials," she said at the start of the five-day conference.

Just as AIDS patients politicized the disease and demanded and received a greater input in how they were treated, women with breast cancer have pushed for more funding and increased public awareness of the disease that affects more than 210,600 women in Europe each year.

Piccart, the chair of the Brussels conference, said surgeons, chemotherapists, radiotherapists, nurses and psychologists were working together to provide the most effective treatment for women.

"Gone for good are the days when the only effective treatment was a radical mastectomy," she said.

"In some countries it (patient power) has resulted in increased funding for cancer research, a crucial issue if we want tomorrow's treatments to be better than (those) of today."

Although scientists are still a long way from having effective treatments for every type of breast cancer, advances in medical research and technology are leading to more customized treatments.

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