Novartis survey published in The Breast Journal reveals major gaps in treatment discussions between metastatic breast cancer patients and doctors

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

  • 89% of metastatic breast cancer patients surveyed feel it’s important to discuss a long-term treatment “roadmap” with their doctor at initial diagnosis, yet 43% report not having that conversation1
  • Patients seek comprehensive dialogue with oncologists to understand treatment options and quality of life issues throughout the course of their disease1  
  • Results led to a community-endorsed personalized discussion guide to help improve communications between patients and oncologists 

Novartis announced today the publication of the Make Your Dialogue Count survey results in The Breast Journal, a first-of-its-kind survey designed to identify communications gaps and understand the specific needs of metastatic breast cancer patients throughout the course of their disease. Novartis convened a committee of oncologists, patient advocates and a psychologist to develop the survey questions and ensure the findings would be meaningful to the advanced breast cancer community, which comprises of metastatic (stage IV) and locally advanced breast cancer (stage III).

“The Make Your Dialogue Count results have the potential to shape practice moving forward as they shed light on the importance for oncologists to have a continual and open dialogue with patients about their specific concerns and preferences so they can tailor treatment plans and improve quality of life for each individual patient,” said Adam Brufsky, MD, Medical Director of the Women’s Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and leading survey author and Make Your Dialogue Count survey advisor. “As oncologists, it is evident that we need to be more mindful of how we communicate about advanced breast cancer, treatment options, side effect management and support services while encouraging our patients to be active participants in treatment discussions.”

Results from the Make Your Dialogue Count survey, which was sponsored by Novartis and conducted by Harris Poll among 359 women with metastatic breast cancer and 252 oncologists, show communication gaps exist in discussions between patients and oncologists, particularly around treatment plans and goals.

  • 89% of patients and 76% of oncologists said that it’s important or very important to discuss long-term treatment plans beyond the current recommended treatment at their initial advanced breast cancer diagnosis. Yet, 43% of patients reported that this did not take place1.
  • 70% of patients and 65% of oncologists said that it’s important or very important to refer patients to support services at their initial advanced breast cancer diagnosis. Yet, only 36% of patients reported that this was something their doctor did1.
  • 23% of oncologists said that at times their emotions have kept them from sharing certain information with their advanced breast cancer patients, and 27% of oncologists said that, in certain situations, they do not discuss with patients the fact that advanced breast cancer is incurable1.

“For the past 25 years, we have collaborated with patients, advocates and physicians to support and amplify the voice of the advanced breast cancer community, an often underrepresented group,” said Bill Hinshaw, Executive Vice President and Head, US, Novartis Oncology. “The Make Your Dialogue Count survey is the third major survey Novartis has conducted in collaboration with the community that contributes to a better understanding of the unique experiences of those affected by advanced breast cancer. As a result of the findings, we developed the Make Your Dialogue Count tool to help those living with the disease improve discussions with their doctors.”

The customizable Make Your Dialogue Count tool, available at (link is external), helps patients make the most out of their doctor visits. After answering key questions relevant to their unique experience with advanced breast cancer, patients receive a personalized discussion guide that addresses their concerns, along with tips for initiating a dialogue with their doctor and questions to ask at their next appointment. With any change in treatment or status, patients can retake the questionnaire and generate a new discussion guide that addresses the topics that matter most to them.

For more information on the survey data and advanced breast cancer, please visit (link is external).

About Make Your Dialogue Count Survey  

This survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Novartis between June 20 and August 22, 2014. A total of 359 surveys were collected among women 21 years+ living with advanced breast cancer in addition to 234 caregivers of women with advanced breast cancer and 252 licensed oncologists who treat at least five advanced breast cancer patients per month within the United States. Patient interviews were collected via a variety of methods including online, phone and paper methodologies.  Patient data were not weighted and therefore representative only of the individuals interviewed. All oncologist interviews were conducted online. Oncologist data were weighted by sex, years in practice and region where necessary to reflect the population of licensed oncologists practicing within the United States. No estimates of error can be computed1.

About Novartis in advanced breast cancer

For more than 25 years, Novartis has been at the forefront of driving scientific advancements for breast cancer patients and improving clinical practice in partnership with the global community2. With one of the most diverse breast cancer pipelines and the largest number of breast cancer compounds in development, Novartis leads the industry in discovery of new therapies and combinations, especially in HR+ advanced breast cancer, the most common form of the disease2.

About advanced breast cancer

Advanced breast cancer comprises of metastatic breast cancer (stage IV) and locally advanced breast cancer (stage III)3. Metastatic breast cancer is the most serious form of the disease and occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, bones or liver3. Locally advanced breast cancer occurs when the cancer has spread to lymph nodes and/or other tissue in the area of the breast, but not to distant sites in the body3.

HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer is the most common type of advanced breast cancer, with an estimated 220,000 women diagnosed globally each year4,5. HR+ advanced breast cancer is a group of cancers that express receptors for certain hormones such as estrogen and progesterone5. Cancer cell growth can be driven by these hormones5.


This press release contains expressed or implied forward-looking statements, including statements that can be identified by terminology such as “potential,” “pipelines,” “in development,” or similar expressions. Such forward-looking statements reflect the current views of the Group regarding future events, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to be materially different from any future results expressed or implied by such statements. These expectations could be affected by, among other things, risks and factors referred to in the Risk Factors section of Novartis AG’s current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update it in the future.

About Novartis

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation researches, develops, manufactures and markets innovative medicines aimed at improving patients’ lives.  We offer a broad range of medicines for cancer, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disease, inflammatory disease, infectious disease, neurological disease, organ transplantation, psychiatric disease, respiratory disease and skin conditions.  The company’s mission is to improve people’s lives by pioneering novel healthcare solutions.

Located in East Hanover, New Jersey, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is an affiliate of Novartis AG, which provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care and cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2015, the Group achieved net sales of USD 49.4 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 8.9 billion (USD 8.7 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 118,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are available in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information, please visit