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Chemo Survey: Doctors and Patients Speak Out
By Shana Aborn
A recent survey of oncologists, oncology nurses and metastatic breast cancer patients indicates that when it comes to chemotherapy, medical professionals and patients may disagree.
In the Metastatic Breast Cancer Study, conducted on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies Abraxis BioScience and AstraZeneca, between 19 and 24 percent of oncologists said that they focus on treatment goals and side effects when discussing chemo with metastatic patients. However, more than half of the 212 women surveyed said that what they wanted most from their doctors was an understanding of how well the chemo drugs would work against their disease. They also wanted more of a say in their treatment; 71 percent said that they had been given no alternatives in chemo regimens when they were first diagnosed, and nearly 64 percent said they were never given a choice at any time in their treatment.
Doctors and patients also differed on the reason for selecting a chemotherapy regimen. The vast majority of oncologists—87 percent—said they take the drugs’ efficacy into account first and foremost. Nearly three-quarters of nurses agreed. But women with metastatic disease reported that when making their chemo choice, maintaining quality of life was just as important to them as how well the drugs worked.
Other questions in the survey revealed that the side effects of chemo may be more severe than women with breast cancer feel they can handle. A full 60 percent of oncology nurses said that their patients have asked them about changing chemotherapies, most often because they were experiencing fatigue or diminished quality of life.