, Volume 18, Issue 11, pp 1461-1468
Date: 03 Dec 2009

Unanticipated toxicities from anticancer therapies: Survivors’ perspectives

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Improved therapies in oncology have resulted in increased survival across numerous malignancies, shifting attention to other aspects of the cancer experience. In particular, the impact of treatment-related toxicities has gained considerable attention, due to their physical and psychosocial effects, and possible impact on clinical outcome. These untoward events have not been examined from the survivors' perspective.


To identify and describe treatment-related toxicities having a negative effect on quality of life from the perspective of cancer survivors.


Quantitative study using written questionnaires and content analysis.


Cancer survivors' workshop across the United States.


A total of 379 participants from six survivor groups: breast (n = 250), ovarian (n = 27), lung (n = 23), colorectal (n = 15), genitourinary (n = 23), and other cancers (n = 45).

Outcome measures

Survivors' perceptions on treatment-related dermatologic, gastrointestinal, and constitutional toxicities.


Survivors reported an increased concern regarding dermatologic toxicities, including irritated and dry skin, after receiving their cancer treatment. These events had a negative effect on their lives. Although gastrointestinal and constitutional toxicities also had a negative effect, the concern over their development was unchanged prior to and after treatments.


The impact of dermatologic toxicities is unanticipated prior to cancer treatments. Since these events have a negative effect on survivors' lives, pretreatment counseling and effective interventions are vital in order to maximize quality of life and minimize unnecessary treatment interruptions or discontinuations.