UVA nursing student creates breast cancer decision aid

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A fourth-year PhD student at the University of Virginia School of Nursing is using her experience with cancer patients to create a decision aid for women diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast.

Crystal Chu started her nursing career at a cancer unit in Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. The scenarios Chu encountered with her patients inspired her to create the decision aid.

"I met a lot of women who have been through the experience of breast cancer and their treatment and their surgeries," she said. "Hearing their stories afterward motivated me to find out what I could do to improve quality of life."

The aid is part of a study trial Chu created to help women understand all their options besides a double mastectomy.

"The physician or practitioner, is going over their surgical choices with them and the risk and benefits of that choice," Chu said. "They recognize their priorities and what their options are, they sort of put the two together and can come up with their best-informed choice."

The study originated from the Angelina Effect, which is inspired by Angelina Jolie after she went through a double mastectomy in 2013 when she found out she had a breast cancer gene.

Chu said some women decide to remove both of their breasts when they're diagnosed with cancer on one side, but she said this could be a decision some women could regret.

"The healthy breast is at risk for surgical infection," she said. "I've seen women who have had infection post-operative, which would delay their chemotherapy, which in turn delays their cancer treatment."

With the risks outlined in the decision aid, Chu hopes women can have a better understanding of their options to choose what's best for their recovery.

"A decision aid like this can help them make that sure choice, whether they want to remove one or both," Chu said. "That it's a decision they're most comfortable with and they're going to be satisfied with in the long run."

Chu said the decision aid is still under review with the Ethics Review Committee.

She hopes women can start testing out the decision aid this spring.

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