Communicating health and cancer risks in contexts where there is high uncertainty

Communicating health and cancer risks in contexts where there is high uncertainty

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Many of our projects directly address the challenges of uncertainty in the cancer context, including how oncologists communicate about uncertainty with their patients, how patients make decisions when faced with risk information and uncertain outcomes, and patterns in uncertainties about cancer risk in the general public by levels of health literacy, education, avoidance, and other characteristics. Our work has implications for intervention development across clinical and public health contexts, and basic social science theory of how people cope with uncertainty in health contexts, and in cancer care, most specifically.

Some example projects are:

Project 1: Communication Challenges in Precision Oncology

Dr. Hay and Dr. Hamilton are conducting a project to understand oncology care providers’ communication challenges about the topic of precision medicine. In collaboration with colleagues in the MSK ComSkil program, the team is leading a series of focus groups with oncology care providers to better understand their interactions with patients and families regarding innovations in precision oncology and cancer treatments.

Project 2: Don’t Know Responding to Risk Perception Questions

Dr. Hay and her collaborators have conducted studies confirming that large proportions of the general population are uncertain about their cancer risk, and that knowledge deficits and cancer risk information avoidance are important correlates of cancer risk uncertainty. Our continued work in this area is poised to identify intervention solutions to this problem, given that public health approaches to cancer prevention and control commonly target cancer risk perceptions to motivate protective behaviors.

  • Hay JL, Orom H, Kiviniemi MT, Waters EA. “I don’t know” my cancer risk: exploring deficits in cancer knowledge and information-seeking skills to explain an often-overlooked participant response. Medical Decision Making. 2015; 35(4):436-45. PMCID: PMC4424091.
  • Hay JL, Kiviniemi MT, Orom H, Waters EA. Using NCI-designated Cancer Center Catchment Area data to understand an ignored but high need constituent: People uncertain or avoidant about their cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2019. Epub 2019/09/11. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.Epi-19-0430. PubMed PMID: 31501151