How do oncologists make decisions about chemotherapy for their older patients with cancer? A survey of Australian oncologists

E. B. Moth, B. E. Kiely, V. Naganathan, A. Martin, P. Blinman

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Oncologists are making treatment decisions on increasing numbers of older patients with cancer. Due to comorbidities and frailty that increase with age, such decisions are often complex. We determined factors influencing oncologists' decisions to prescribe chemotherapy for older adults.

Methods: Members of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOGA) were invited to complete an online survey in February to April 2016.

Results: Ninety-three oncologists completed the survey of which 69 (74%) were consultants and 24 (26%) were trainees, with most (72, 77%) working predominantly in a public hospital-associated practice. The three highest ranked factors influencing decisions about (a) adjuvant chemotherapy were performance status, survival benefit of treatment, and life expectancy in the absence of cancer and about (b) palliative chemotherapy were performance status, patient preference, and quality of life. Most geriatric health domains are reportedly assessed routinely by the majority of respondents, though few routinely use geriatric screening tools (14%) or geriatric assessments (5%). In hypothetical patient scenarios, oncologists were less likely to prescribe palliative and adjuvant chemotherapy as age and rates of severe toxicity increased.

Conclusion: Performance status was the most influential factor for oncologists when making a decision about chemotherapy for their older patients, and the importance of other factors differed according to treatment intent. Oncologists were less likely to recommend chemotherapy as patient age and treatment toxicity increased. The low uptake of geriatric assessments or screening tools provides scope for improved clinical assessment of older adults in treatment decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-460
Number of pages10
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision-making
  • Chemotherapy
  • Older adult
  • Elderly
  • Oncologist


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