Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 247–260 | Cite as

Breast cancer oral anti-cancer medication adherence: a systematic review of psychosocial motivators and barriers

  • Cheryl LinEmail author
  • Rachel Clark
  • Pikuei Tu
  • Hayden B. Bosworth
  • Leah L. Zullig



In the past decade, there has been an increase in the development and use of oral anti-cancer medications (OAMs), especially for breast cancer–the most prevalent cancer in women. However, adherence rates for OAMs are often suboptimal, leading to lower survival rate, increased risk of recurrence, and higher healthcare costs. Our goal was to identify potentially modifiable psychosocial facilitators and barriers that may be targeted to increase OAM adherence for breast cancer patients.


We systematically searched PubMed for studies published in the U.S. by June 15, 2016 that addressed the following: (1) OAMs for breast cancer; (2) medication adherence; and (3) at least one psychosocial aspect of adherence.


Of the 1752 papers screened, 21 articles were included and analyzed. The most commonly reported motivators for adherence are patient-provider relationships (n = 11 studied, 82% reported significant association) and positive views and beliefs of medication (n = 9 studied, 89% reported significant association). We also identified consistent evidence of the impact of depression and emotions, perception of illness, concern of side effects, self-efficacy in medication management and decision making, knowledge of medication, and social support on OAM adherence.


Compared to traditional demographic, system, and clinical-related factors that have been well documented in the literature but are not easily changed, these cognitive, psychological, and interpersonal factors are more amendable via intervention and therefore could generate greater benefit in improving patient compliance and health outcomes. As OAMs shift treatment administration responsibility onto patients, continuous provider communication and education on illness and regimen are the keys to supporting patients’ medication behavior.


Breast cancer Medication adherence Compliance Psychosocial Oral medication Patient-physician relationship 



Dr. Bosworth is supported by the VA Research Career Scientist Award (RCS 08-027); and Dr. Zullig is supported by the VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Career Development Award (CDA 13-025). The project is partially funded by Duke University Bass Connections for interdisciplinary research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheryl Lin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rachel Clark
    • 1
  • Pikuei Tu
    • 1
  • Hayden B. Bosworth
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Leah L. Zullig
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Policy and Organizational Management ProgramDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Center for Health Services Research in Primary CareDurham Veterans Affairs Health Care SystemDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Duke Cancer InstituteDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  5. 5.School of NursingDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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