Chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer: what influences oncologists' decision-making?

E A Grunfeld, A J Ramirez, E J Maher, D Peach, T Young, I P Albery, M A Richards

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Chemotherapy is widely used in the management of patients with advanced breast cancer. However, a considerable proportion of patients experience toxic side effects without gaining benefit. This study aimed to elicit oncologists' views of the goals of chemotherapy for patients with advanced breast cancer and to elicit which factors are important in decisions to recommend chemotherapy to such patients. 30 oncologists underwent a semi-structured interview to examine their views of 5 goals of chemotherapy and of various disease, treatment and patient-related factors that might influence decisions to offer treatment. The clinicians also made decisions regarding treatment in relation to a hypothetical patient scenario under varying clinical conditions. Relief of symptoms and improvement of activity were rated as the most valuable and achievable goals of treatment. The patient's performance status, frailty and their wishes regarding treatment were the most important patient-related factors in determining decision-making. The most important disease/treatment-related factors were pace of the disease, previous poor response to chemotherapy, co-existing symptoms and concurrent medical conditions. The hypothetical scenario revealed that co-existing medical conditions, adverse previous response, increased age and depression would decrease the likelihood of recommending chemotherapy, whereas key symptoms (e.g. breathlessness) and the patient's goals would increase the likelihood. The findings suggest that British oncologists primarily aim to improve patients' physical function, although subjective factors, such as a patient's desire for anti-cancer treatment and their future goals, also influence decisions to offer treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1172-8
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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