The Role of Self-Care Behaviors in Patients on Oral Anticancer Agents in Maximizing Medication Adherence

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Recent advances in cancer therapy have increased patient life expectancy, and many patients are now considered to be under chronic treatment for their cancer.1 Accordingly, cancer treatment is increasingly shifting from primarily hospital-based treatment with intravenous infusion of chemotherapy medications to home-based, patient-administered, oral anticancer medications with periodic clinical evaluation.1 Oral anticancer medications have many benefits, including improving patients’ quality of life by eliminating time-consuming intravenous infusions and allowing patients to retain more autonomy and flexibility in therapy management.1 Despite many benefits, there are recognized downsides of oral anticancer medication therapy. They generally have a narrow therapeutic index, which requires close monitoring and strict patient adherence to ensure treatment efficacy and safety.1 Adherence to oral anticancer medications has been found to be lower when compared with other administration regimens, which can impact response, increase patient morbidity, and increase hospitalization rates and healthcare costs. Patients who maintain oral anticancer medication adherence have maximized tumor control.

To better understand self-care behavior in patients who receive oral anticancer medications, Sollazzo and colleagues performed a systematic literature review of studies on self-care behavior. The result of this review was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress 2021. Criteria for inclusion in the review were cancer patients who were treated with oral anticancer agents and reporting behaviors related to self-care management, maintenance, and monitoring. There were 20 studies found that met the study criteria and were used for qualitative synthesis.

The self-care maintenance behaviors identified were establishing a routine, patient/caregiver medication management, caregiver support, having an adherence strategy for taking medication, following medical advice, physical activity, avoidance of specific foods, searching for information, and adaptation of medication intake to everyday life. Self-care monitoring behaviors identified were monitoring medication side effects and vital signs along with use of a symptom diary. Self-care management behaviors identified were calling a physician if side effects occurred, suspending the use of oral anticancer medications if necessary, and using medications to control symptoms.

Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in supporting patients who take oral anticancer medications and practice proper self-care behaviors. This, in turn, assists in improving patient quality of life, reducing toxicity of medications, and reducing associated healthcare costs and hospitalization rates.


Sollazzo F, Di Nitto M, Biagioli V, et al. A systematic review of self-care behaviours among patients with cancer who take oral anticancer agents. Ann Oncol. 2021;32(suppl_5):S1261-S1262.


  1. Schneider MP, Achtari Jeanneret L, Chevaux B, et al. A novel approach to better characterize medication adherence in oral anticancer treatments. Front Pharmacol. 2019;9:1567.

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