Research & Insights

Cancer Information Cards Improves Survivors’ Knowledge

A diagnosis of breast cancer often requires long-term care even after the initial treatment, and research has shown that low-income and minority women often don’t get the follow up attention they need. But a new study  suggests that providing wallet cards with information about “breast cancer tumor stage, nodal status, and treatment received” as well as “information on recurrence and related symptoms” can help inform cancer survivors.

Writing in the September 2015 issue of Surgery, Jesus G. Ulloa and his colleagues describe how these cards, which contain information such as timing of follow-up mammograms and risk of recurrence, improves patient knowledge of their disease. For their study, researchers focused on low-income and minority women because these patients are disproportionately reliant on public hospitals and health centers, many of which are strapped for time and resources. This means that many women fall through the cracks. The lack of proper follow-up care can have a devastating effect on survivors’ long-term health.

Before beginning the study, 102 breast cancer patients completed a baseline questionnaire that included demographic questions, as well as questions specifically about their “cancer stage and nodal status, treatment received, recurrence risk and treatment recommendations.” The patients were then given a wallet-sized card containing “important elements of [their cancer] diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care.” Both English and Spanish cards were printed. Patients were surveyed after a week and then after three months and again were asked to provide information about their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The researchers found that prior to receiving the cards, many patients “lacked basic knowledge of their cancer history,” with more than a third unable to report their correct cancer stage and a fifth unable to recall what kind of treatment they had received. Twenty-eight percent of patients “did not understand that their cancer could recur,” and over half “did not recognize typical symptoms of cancer recurrence.”

The cards improved patients’ knowledge of their individual cancer diagnosis as well as how much they knew about recurrence and the warning signs that their cancer was back. It also “reduced the number of patients who were unsure when their mammogram was due.”

“[P]atients gave the survivorship card a favorable rating, with 93% reporting being very much or extremely satisfied with it,” report the researchers. Importantly, “[n]early 90% reported that they would be likely to share their survivorship card with their [medical] providers,” they added.

“[T]he use of a patient-centered survivorship card improves short-term, patient specific breast cancer knowledge and survivorship care. Delivery of the information seems successful with use of both patient navigators and community health workers,” Ulloa and his colleagues report.


Jesus G. Ulloa and Patience Odele, University of California, Los Angeles
Marian Hemmelgarn and Nancy R. Feldman, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center
Lori Viveros and Melinsa Maggard-Gibbons, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles
Patricia A Ganz, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Posted: October 7, 2015
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