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Which Treatments Work Best for You?

Information helps with right care, treatment decisions

As individuals, we want choices that reflect who we are and what's right for our situation. Getting the right health care is no different.

Until recently, information that showed which treatments work best for certain groups of patients, especially women, was hard to find.

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Now women's health research is a growing field. The Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term study launched by the late Bernadine Healy, M.D., a director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has provided important information on how to prevent and treat heart disease, breast and colorectal cancers, and osteoporosis in women ages 50 to 79.

The WHI and the Office of Research on Women's Health have helped to ensure that women are fairly represented in studies sponsored by the NIH. Before the WHI began, very few studies focused solely on women.

Today, there is far more research to help identify which groups of patients will benefit from which kind of treatment. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) sponsors patient-centered research that asks just that question. The goal of this research is to help you make better, more informed treatment choices.

Several recent consumer guides based on this research focus on conditions that affect women. Written in plain language, these guides can help you understand the benefits and potential risks of treatments for various conditions.

One such guide helps women talk to their doctor or nurse about drugs to reduce their risk of breast cancer. Two medicines can lower the risk for women who haven't had breast cancer but have a high risk of the disease. Both of these drugs, however, have side effects, some of them serious. If you are at high risk for breast cancer or if you're unsure, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you decide whether a medicine to reduce the risk of breast cancer is a good choice.

Next: Questions you need to ask your doctor. >>


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