The Art of Communicating Breast Cancer Diagnostics to Patients

October 14, 2014

Breast cancer. Two words that can change a life in an instant. Two words which are personal for many of us. Two words driving billions of dollars of research, diagnostic and prognostic test development, and breakthrough treatment options. So, while we have made tremendous strides in advancing the standard of care for breast cancer patients, why are these two words still so chilling and the disease still so lethal?

For a patient who receives a breast cancer diagnosis, the flurry of questions and concerns are all- consuming, sometimes crippling. For this reason, it is critical that marketers of breast cancer diagnostics communicate clearly and confidently to alleviate some of the unknowns. In this blog, we challenge marketers to ask, how can patient messaging improve? How can messaging be clear and less overwhelming? How can a brochure on your breast cancer diagnostic empower a patient as they are a little bit more informed about their disease? These questions are arguably just as important as how to sell the value of your diagnostic test to an Oncologist or Laboratory Director.


Test Information: It is important that diagnostic test information be accompanied by implications, treatment options, and data to support the options. Following discovery of the BRCA gene, many women have blindly undergone double mastectomies following a positive result. How can the diagnostic community work with patients to determine the best treatment options, and it is it possible in the future to improve the prognostic value of current tests? Myriad, for example, offers a patient portal with answers to everything from, "what is genetic testing?" to "what do I do once I have obtained test results."

Reporting: Ensure that data reports are clear, concise, and actionable. This is critical not only for the patient, but also for the physician. Oftentimes, physicians have a finite period of time to review a report prior to meeting with a patient. Without actionable and clear information, the success of the patient meeting can be compromised. The report for Genomic Health's Oncotype DX test, for example, provides a clear score indicating a patient's risk of recurrence and clearly provides a table with benefit achieved by Chemotherapy.

Information Access: Think about how to improve patient access to information. Since information can be empowering for a patient, it is helpful to offer easy access to online web portals where important information regarding test results, supporting data, treatment implications, and support groups can be found. Consider gathering feedback from patients to best cater to their information needs (see Market Research below as well).

Advocacy: Align yourself and your company with breast cancer advocacy groups. This allows your communication to be in line with that of respected and recognizable organizations. It tells the patient that you are focused on their mental and physical well-being. There is also opportunity for sharing of best practices to maximize communication effectiveness.

Market Research: Consider "voice of patient" (VOP) market assessments to collect and analyze information which is important to patients. Using this will direct your marketing materials to focus on the information patients want to see from diagnostic companies. Oftentimes, the best direction comes from the patients themselves. (Contact Us for more information on how Market Ready Rx can assist with VOP projects.)

Information access is key for a patient:

  • Provide clear test reporting information which can be digested within 30 seconds by a busy oncologist and a patient
  • Work with advocacy groups to test your patient messaging.
  • Conduct market research to validate your messaging in patient web portals and brochures

With an increased focus on empowering the patient, advancement in patient care is inevitable. For example, through the advent of the Artemis Project® by the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), patients are becoming more involved with decisions about how to spend breast cancer research dollars. You can read more about the Artemis Project here. So, think about how your organization can empower the patient to be driven to take an active role in her care. It starts with you.

For more information on how Market Ready Rx can help you to interface with the patient and expand your breast cancer diagnostic offering, visit