The ability to deliver the planned dose and intensity of chemotherapy (the amount of drug administered/unit of time) is important for tumour control and survival. In clinical practice, neutropenic events are the main limiting factors towards achieving this aim. We assessed the impact of neutropenic events [defined as either hospital admission due to febrile neutropenia (FN), dose delay > or =7 days due to neutropenia or dose reduction of > or =15% due to neutropenia] on dose intensity (DI) in a random sample of 50 patients with various solid tumours. Fifty patients who received systemic chemotherapy for solid tumours were assessed as part of this study. Using a pre-programmed data collection tool via computer, retrospective data were collected. The neutropenic events were defined before data collection. The patient characteristics are as follows: breast 26 patients (stage I-6; II-3; III-17), colorectal 16 patients (stage I-6; II-3; III-7) and others 8 patients [small cell lung cancer (SCLC), ovarian, peritoneal and oesophageal cancers]. The chemotherapy regimens used are Flourouracil, Epirubicin, cyclophosphamide (FEC) 14 patients (28%); 5 Flourouracil/folinic acid (5FU/FA) 12 patients (24%); Adriamycin, cyclophosphamide (AC) 11 patients (22%); other 13 patients (26%). Neutropenic events occurred in a significant proportion of patients (overall 40%; breast 26%; colorectal 56%; others 25% of patients) and in a significant number (21%) of chemotherapy cycles. Overall, dose delay was the most common neutropenic event, occurring in 30% of patients (breast 32%; colorectal 31%; others 25%% of patients). Dose reduction due to neutropenia was noted in 20% of patients (breast 12% colorectal 38% others 13%% of patients). Hospitalizations due to FN affected 8% of patients. Only two patients had granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GCSF) as treatment for two cycles. Relative dose intensity (RDI) in patients with neutropenic events was 81% compared with 92% in patients without an event and the results were consistent for different cancers. In total, 65% of patients who experienced one neutropenic event were likely to experience subsequent events. In conclusion neutropenic events have a significant impact on the ability to deliver planned DI. Hence, proactive use of GCSF has the potential to improve adherence to the planned schedule of chemotherapy.