CMU faculty investigates breast cancer treatment decision-making process

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

CMU researcher Kirsten Weber defines difficult decision-making


One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to Faced with a diagnosis and the range of emotions that follows, patients often struggle with the medical options presented to them and how to make a decision about their course of treatment.

Through her research, Central Michigan University assistant professor Kirsten Weber is helping breast cancer patients, caregivers and practitioners better understand how and why people make the treatment decisions they do.

“Knowing the different decision-making styles can be a powerful tool for helping breast cancer patients who may be faced with treatment decisions of their own,” Weber, a communication and dramatic arts faculty member, said.

Weber interviewed cancer victims on how rsonal relationships shape the treatment decisions a person diagnosed with breast cancer makes. Weber’s research identified five decision-making styles including:

  • Medical-expert: Decisions are driven by the opinion of one or multiple doctors and/or the information the patient receives from her doctor.
  • Self-efficacy: Women weigh options and control the decision process by themselves.
  • Relationship-embedded: Decisions are based upon the primary concern of extending one’s life to spend time with loved ones.
  • Inhibition: Decisions are focused on wanting to avoid adverse experiences, including pain and death.
  • Constellation-of-information: Decisions include several influences of equal importance.

“I was inspired by so many of the women I interviewed as part of my research and humbled by their stories,” Weber said. “My ultimate goal of this research is to enhance the quality of cancer patients’ lives by making people aware that not everyone goes about deciding their course of treatment in the same way, and that’s okay.”

Weber plans to continue her research by broadening the study to include all types of cancer and further investigate how diagnosed patients make treatment decisions.