Newswise — University of Manitoba nursing researcher Dr. Lesley Degner is a vocal advocate of better communication with cancer patients. An internationally recognized scholar and a leading researcher in the area of patient involvement in medical decision making, she has dedicated her career to advancing oncology nursing, a field which she believes is crucial to a patient's well-being and health.

"Our research has shown that increasingly women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer want to participate in making decisions about their medical treatment," explains Degner. "We have also found that those who do participate have less anxiety and depression, and improved quality of life."

Degner was instrumental in establishing the Cancer Nursing Research Group at the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre, and she initiated the development of a joint PhD program in cancer control that brings together the Faculties of Nursing and Medicine to provide doctoral training in oncology nursing.

Degner's groundbreaking book, Life-Death Decisions in Health Care, outlines the factors that influence how decisions are made for patients with life-threatening illnesses. Her ideas form the basis of the Control Preferences Scale and the Information Needs Scale, measurement tools used by investigators around the world.

Degner's research into informational needs, decision making preferences and the meaning of illness in women with breast cancer also included comparative studies in England and Sweden. In 2003, she described a way of measuring how women with breast cancer derive meaning from their experiences.

She notes: "I hope that clinicians and researchers will be led to further consider the roles that people with cancer want to assume in making decisions about various aspects of their care and treatment."

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