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Computer helps cancer women
Computer
A computer programme may help women decide how to tackle breast cancer
A computer programme could help women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer weight up the risks and benefits of treatment.

It will also clearly forecast the chances that women will survive their disease.

Depending on the type and spread of the cancer, women often still have more than a single treatment option to consider.


Many women seemed to lack information about the relative benefits of various therapies

Dr Peter Ravdin
Some treatments are associated with severe short-term side effects, and in some cases long term risk, which patients need to understand fully before consenting to undergo them.

The programme has been developed by doctors at Texas Health Sciences Center, and was unveiled at the European Cancer Conference in Lisbon on Tuesday.

At its core are easy-to-read reviews of every treatment option - setting out clearly exactly what the treatment entails and its advantages and disadvantages.

Each permutation of treatment will affect chances of survival - and these are calculated for the woman for every choice available to her.

'True participant'

Dr Peter Ravdin, who led the team which developed the software, said: "In prior work, we found that even after talking with their doctors, many women seemed to lack information about the relative benefits of various therapies."

He added: "Weighing up the options can be made easier by giving the patient information so that she can be a true participant in selecting what is best for her.

"We believe there is also great potential to use this approach to help patients with other forms of cancer."

Some of the potential side-effects of treatment for breast cancer can be less of a priority during a consultation between doctor and patient, but are important nonetheless, he said.

Chemotherapy, for example, could bring on an early menopause, and increase the subsequent risk of leukaemia.

Even long-term use of tamoxifen can increase the risk of blood clots and endometrial cancer slightly.

A woman's risk of dying from her breast cancer can be calculated at the time she is diagnosed.

It depends on a number of factors, including the size of the original tumour, whether or not it is responsive to the female hormone oestrogen, and whether or not it appears to have spread to nearby lymph nodes or beyond.

The European Cancer Conference - full coverage

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