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Breast cancer month October: Information can help reduce fears

No. 44 | 24/10/2016 | by jg/Sel

Current studies show that patients with breast cancer benefit from reliable health information and education, reducing their fears and worries and improving their quality of life. The cancer information hotline (Krebsinformationsdienst, KID) at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg has been informing patients and their families for 30 years about all questions regarding cancer. In 50% of all enquiries on tumor localization, the subject of breast cancer is paramount.

Evaluation of the user survey: for a large proportion of the 816 breast cancer patients, the conversation with the physicians from the KID had a beneficial effect

Positive effect

"Listening to our patients, providing reliable information and specific advice for coping with difficult situations can help ease breast cancer patients' anxieties", Susanne Weg-Remers head of the KID explains. This was confirmed by the results of a written survey of users of the telephone service1. It specifically investigated whether the women who phoned the KID benefitted from the information given and whether as a result their self-competence and their subjective feeling of security increased. 816 breast cancer patients were questioned about how satisfied they were with the conversations and the information they received. In conclusion, the effect of their increased knowledge was threefold: The affected patients were less anxious, felt safer with regard to their care, and had more confidence in their physicians and the treatment they were receiving. Susanne Weg-Remers adds: "The daily feedback from our users shows us that for many affected patients and families, our service represents a welcome addition to the physician-patient dialogue, bridging an important gap in communication."

The importance of health literacy should not be underestimated

Current studies provide evidence for the relevance of reliable health information. Older breast cancer patients who had been well-informed regarding their condition showed less anxiety than less well-informed patients2, e.g. regarding a relapse or spreading of their tumor. A further current study has focused specifically on patients' fear of side effects3: The less fearful of a hormonal therapy breast cancer patients are, the weaker their side effects will actually be. How important physician-patient talks are in this context was shown by another study4.It recommends that physicians actively address the subject of side effects with their patients. Through direct dialogue, ways to improve patients' quality of life could be found, which is often an important prerequisite for a long-term therapy compliance in these patients. "This affirms us in our commitment to provide competent and independent advice to those that need it", says Susanne Weg-Remers, head of the Krebsinformationsdienst (KID).

For 30 years, the KID has been providing information on all aspects of cancer: Prevention and early detection are as important as diagnosis, therapy and living with cancer. Physicians give competent answers and individual advice, responding to approx. 34,000 phone calls and emails per year.

The KID is available daily from 8am. Phone: 0800-420-30-40 or email:

Further information is available at


  1. Gaisser A, Kludt E, Weg-Remers S (2014) Impact von Information auf Selbstkompetenz und subjektive Sicherheit – Wie bewerten und verarbeiten Brustkrebspatientinnen vom Krebsinformationsdienst vermittelte Informationen? Senologie - Zeitschrift für Mammadiagnostik und -therapie 11, Abstract 317 DOI: 10.1055/s-0034-1375396
  2. S.M. Halbach, A. Enders, C. Kowalski, T.K. Pförtner, H. Pfaff, S. Wesselmann, N. Ernstmann: Health literacy and fear of cancer progression in elderly women newly diagnosed with breast cancer - A longitudinal analysis. Patient Education and Counseling (2016) May; 99(5):855-62. DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2015.12.012
  3. JJ Lin, J. Chuang J, N.A. Bickel , J.P. Wisnivesky: Patient-Provider XCommunication and Hormonal Therapy side Effects in Breast Cancer Survivors. Women Health. DOI: 10.1080/03630242.2016.1235071
  4. "Is it best to expect the worst? Influence of patients' side-effect expectations on endocrine treatment outcome in a two-year prospective clinical cohort study", by Y. Nestoriuc et al. Annals of Oncology. DOI:10.1093/annonc/mdw266

An image for this press release is available for download at:

Legend: Evaluation of the user survey: for a large proportion of the 816 breast cancer patients, the conversation with the physicians from the KID had a beneficial effect.

Note on use of images related to press releases

Use is free of charge. The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) permits one-time use in the context of reporting about the topic covered in the press release. Images have to be cited as follows: "Source: Krebsinformationsdienst, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum"
Distribution of images to third parties is not permitted unless prior consent has been obtained from DKFZ's Press Office (phone: ++49-(0)6221 42 2854, E-mail: Any commercial use is prohibited.

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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