Movement Through Chemotherapy Delay to Initiation Among Breast Cancer Patients: A Qualitative Analysis

Ashley J. Housten, Catalina Malinowski, Edna Paredes, Cassandra L. Harris, Lorna H. McNeill, Mariana Chavez-Macgregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: (Neo) adjuvant chemotherapy decreases the risk of recurrence and improves overall survival among breast cancer patients; however, delays in chemotherapy initiation are associated with adverse health outcomes. The causes of delay are complex and include interrelated social, economic, cultural, environmental, and health system factors. Project Start was a qualitative study designed to assess and identify the multilevel factors contributing to the barriers and facilitators of initiating chemotherapy. Patients and Methods: Women diagnosed with primary invasive breast cancer who experienced ≥ 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 using the Sort and Sift, Think and Shift analytic approach. This analysis included thorough examination of the data by advancing through iterative analytic phases to identify core topics within and across transcripts. Results: We enrolled (N=22) participants with median age at diagnosis 53.5 years (range 27- 70) who identified as Latina (n=8), Black (n=5), and non-Latina White (n=9). Participants described a common chemotherapy initiation process reflecting their unique needs as they transitioned through four stages: 1) receiving diagnosis and treatment recommendations; 2) processing treatment options; 3) “Flipping the Switch”; and 4) activating treatment and engaging in care. Limited explicit insight into their chemotherapy delay was expressed. Engagement across the self-, family-, community-, and medical-realms revealed interlinked and pivotal sources of support that helped participants navigate toward initiating chemotherapy. Specifically, the overarching themes included logistical, emotional, financial, and social sources of support and the relationship of these sources of support to participants’ perceived self-efficacy to move toward initiating treatment. Conclusion: Activating women to be engaged in the treatment process across multiple levels appeared to facilitate initiating chemotherapy. Multilevel interventions that engage the patient, family, community, and medical team may support the initiation of timely chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-759
Number of pages11
JournalPatient Preference and Adherence
StatePublished - 2022


  • Breast cancer
  • Care delivery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Oncology
  • Patient perspectives
  • Qualitative
  • Treatment delay


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