Advice from One Patient to Another: Qualitative Analysis of Patients’ Perspectives About Chemotherapy Initiation

Catalina Malinowski, Edna Paredes, Ashley J. Housten, Mariana Chavez-Macgregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Although the association between delays in (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy initiation and adverse outcomes is well-documented, patient perspective regarding the lived experience among those with breast cancer delay is sparse. Project Start was a qualitative study designed to assess and identify the multilevel factors contributing to the barriers and facilitators of initiating chemotherapy. This report explores specific responses where patients with breast cancer provide insight and advice for newly diagnosed women on preparing for chemotherapy initiation and informs potential interventions to facilitate timely chemotherapy initiation. Patients and Methods: Women diagnosed with primary invasive breast cancer who experienced a ≥60-day delay in (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy initiation were included. Participants completed semi-structured interviews exploring barriers and facilitators to starting chemotherapy. Interviews were transcribed and coded to identify themes. Results: We enrolled (N = 22) participants with a median age at diagnosis of 53.5 years (range 27–70) who identified as Latina (n = 8), Black (n = 5), and non-Latina White (n = 9). Our participants indicated that engaging their medical teams and seeking support earlier were essential to initiate their treatment journeys. They emphasized being proactive and thorough in all aspects of their journey, particularly in processing medical recommendations, communicating with medical personnel, and identifying areas of need. Although explicit insight into chemotherapy delay was rare, participants expressed the importance of beginning treatment promptly. They shared advice on acquiring support (eg, financial, emotional, logistical, spiritual) and suggested connecting with breast cancer survivors to overcome the complex challenges of cancer care. Conclusion: Patient perspectives regarding barriers and treatment facilitators help provide insight into the lived experience of cancer care journeys that can inform interventions to improve patient support and outcomes. We are using these results to develop a pilot study to test the acceptability and feasibility of a culturally tailored patient navigation intervention to increase self-efficacy and avoid treatment delays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3283-3289
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Preference and Adherence
StatePublished - 2022


  • breast cancer
  • care delivery
  • chemotherapy
  • oncology
  • patient perspectives
  • qualitative
  • treatment delay


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