Chemo side effects underreported by physicians

February 9, 2015

Here's a finding that is disturbing, but not really shocking.


By a large margin, many more patients undergoing chemotherapy report symptoms of the therapy to their doctors than their doctors take note of those symptoms. The consequence of this could be enormous.


Patients often decide for/against chemotherapy based upon the toxicities of the treatment. Oncologists tend to base their recommendations on survival statistics. Patients, though, are much more inclined to balance survival statistics with quality of life and toxicity-of-treatment information. How do patients know the range and severity of those toxicities? Through studies where these side effects are collected and published.


As an example, in this particular study, of 76 patients who described significant anorexia as an effect of their chemo, only half of those patients' symptoms were reported by their physician. The effect of such underreporting is to make chemo seem less traumatic than it actually is for patients. Summarized by the study:


"Examining only patients who reported “very much” toxicity, under-reporting by physicians ranged from 13.0% to 50.0%."


When physicians minimize the experience of patients going through chemo, it alienates the patients and it is a great disservice to all future patients and the medical community as a whole.

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