One-Third of Patients Not Receiving Enough Information on Treatment-Related Adverse Events

In a survey published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, one in three patients with cancer said they experienced treatment-related adverse events (AEs) that they wish they learned more about before treatment. Despite this, nine in 10 patients said they felt they made the right treatment decision.

The national survey included 403 U.S. adults and was sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology. The survey was administered between March 2018 and May 2018 using quota-based sampling to draw a nationwide sample of patients treated with radiotherapy within the past five years.

Patient-reported experiences related to AEs

In this cohort, 18% of respondents felt inadequately informed about what AEs to expect from radiotherapy, and 37% experienced radiation therapy-related AEs that they wished they knew more about. A similar proportion of patients treated with chemotherapy (36%) and surgery (34%) experienced treatment-related AEs that they wished they knew more about.

For those undergoing radiotherapy, many said the AEs were generally in line with their expectations; however, some patients reported feeling more tired (29%) or weak (28%) or experienced worse changes to their energy level (31%) than expected.

“More in-depth patient counseling on these [AEs] could help us better prepare our patients for changes to their quality of life,” said first author Narek Shaverdian, MD, a radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Patients who noted that their AEs were minimal compared with severe were significantly more likely to feel informed about radiotherapy AEs (odds ratio = 13.05; 95% CI, 5.6-30.38; P<0.001).

The AEs that patients were reportedly most concerned about prior to radiation therapy were feeling tired (56%), feeling weak (50%), and skin burning (46%).

Across all evaluated measures, a majority of patients said they did not experience the potentially anticipated radiotherapy AE or that it was the same as or better than expected.

“Improvement of pretreatment counseling across all cancer therapy modalities seems warranted to improve informed decision-making and treatment experiences,” the researchers concluded.