Oncologists' and primary care physicians' awareness of late and long-term effects of chemotherapy: implications for care of the growing population of survivors

J Oncol Pract. 2014 Mar;10(2):e29-36. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2013.001121. Epub 2013 Nov 12.


Purpose: The population of cancer survivors is large and growing. Yet after successful completion of treatment, many experience chemotherapy-related late or long-term effects (LEs). The extent to which physicians are aware of LEs is unknown.

Methods: We conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,130 oncologists and 1,072 primary care providers (PCPs). Respondents were asked to select the LEs they had either observed or seen reported for five chemotherapy agents used to treat breast and colon cancers. We described and compared oncologists' and PCPs' awareness of the specified LEs. Using multivariate logistic regression models, we determined predictors of physicians' awareness of the main LEs associated with the agents.

Results: Almost all oncologists (95%) reported awareness of cardiac dysfunction as an LE of doxorubicin and peripheral neuropathy as an LE of paclitaxel (97%) and oxaliplatin (97%). These LEs were reported by 55%, 27%, and 22% of PCPs, respectively. Most oncologists reported awareness of premature menopause (71%) and secondary malignancies (62%) as LEs of cyclophosphamide, compared with only 15% and 17% of PCPs, respectively. Main LEs associated with all four agents were identified by 65% of oncologists and only 6% of PCPs.

Conclusion: Although more than half of PCPs were aware of cardiac dysfunction as an LE of doxorubicin, awareness of other LEs was limited. Because PCPs may not be directly exposed to chemotherapy-related LEs, oncologists must communicate this information to PCPs as patients transition to primary care settings. Education for all providers caring for the growing population of cancer survivors is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians*
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors*
  • Young Adult