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A reporter's guide to medical decision making

Today, patients are often faced with life-altering medical decisions. A woman with early stage breast cancer may be asked by her doctor to decide whether she prefers a complete mastectomy or a breast-sparing lumpectomy followed by radiation treatment. A man with early prostate cancer might get a similar question: Would he rather have radiation therapy, surgery to remove the tumor, or do nothing but monitor the situation?

In medical situations like these where there is no single best treatment, making sure that patients are involved in decisions makes room for individual preferences and priorities, and puts treatment in line with the patient's values. But people faced with such decisions frequently lack the resources, support, and expert coaching that they need to make a truly informed choice, said the participants at Health Journalism 2012 panel, “A reporter's guide to medical decision making.”

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