Expectations of chemotherapy side effects heavily influence patient experience, study finds

Breast cancer patients who expect to encounter severe side effects as a result of chemotherapy treatment regimens are more likely to report side effects than their more optimistic counterparts, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Oncology.

For the study, investigators enrolled 111 women who previously underwent surgery for hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Participants were slated to begin chemotherapy treatment with aromatase inhibitors. Researchers provided the patients with educational information detailing the treatment and its 18 most common and serious side effects. Clinicians then assessed patient expectations regarding side effects related to the treatment.

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Reasearchers evaluated the patients for side effects two separate times after the start of chemotherapy treatment. At 3 months, 19 of the participants who anticipated severe side effects experienced nearly twice as many adverse effects than did the more optimistic patients. Researchers also found that treatment adherence was influenced by patient outlook with 87 percent of the optimistic group and 69 percent of the pessimistic group adhering to medication protocol.

"Expectations are a genuine factor of clinical outcome from endocrine treatment for breast cancer," concluded the authors. "Optimizing individual expectations might be a promising strategy to improve side-effect burden, quality of life and adherence during longer-term drug intake."

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