Qualitative assessment of information and decision support needs for managing menopausal symptoms after breast cancer
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PURPOSE: For breast cancer (BrCa) survivors, premature menopause can result from conventional cancer treatment. Due to limited treatment options, survivors often turn to complementary therapies (CTs), but struggle to make informed decisions. In this study, we identified BrCa survivors' CT and general information and decision-making needs related to menopausal symptoms. METHODS: The needs assessment was informed by interpretive descriptive methodology. Focus groups with survivors (n = 22) and interviews with conventional (n = 12) and CT (n = 5) healthcare professionals (HCPs) were conducted at two Canadian urban cancer centers. Thematic, inductive analysis was conducted on the data. RESULTS: Menopausal symptoms have significant negative impact on BrCa survivors. Close to 70 % of the sample were currently using CTs, including mind-body therapies (45.5 %), natural health products (NHPs) and dietary therapies (31.8 %), and lifestyle interventions (36.4 %). However, BrCa survivors reported inadequate access to information on the safety and efficacy of CT options. Survivors also struggled in their efforts to discuss CT with HCPs, who had limited time and information to support women in their CT decisions. Concise and credible information about CTs was required by BrCa survivors to support them in making informed and safe decisions about using CTs for menopausal symptom management. CONCLUSIONS: High quality research is needed on the efficacy and safety of CTs in managing menopausal symptoms following BrCa treatment. Decision support strategies, such as patient decision aids (DAs), may help synthesize and translate evidence on CTs and promote shared decision-making between BrCa survivors and HCPs about the role of CTs in coping with menopause following cancer treatment.
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