Fifty-five percent of primary care doctors identified heart problems as a late-occurring effect of Adriamycin, while only 27 percent and 22 percent identified peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage to the arms and legs) as a possible result of Taxol and Eloxatin, respectively.
Only 15 percent to 17 percent of primary care doctors knew that early menopause and second cancers could result from Cytoxan.
Oncologists performed better on the survey, with 62 percent to 97 percent aware of these late effects.
It was "surprising that oncologists were not more aware of late effects," Nekhlyudov said. But she also pointed out that the area of cancer survivorship is relatively new.
"As more and more attention is placed on survivorship, oncologists will become more equipped with that information," she said.
The findings highlight the need for more communication between the different doctors involved in a patient's care, one expert stressed.
The burden of that communication lies not only with doctors (oncologists and primary care physicians) but also with patients, said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"This study just highlights the importance of communication on everyone's part, including the patient, including the doctors in trying to get that information across," she added. "If an oncologist is discharging a patient, they should make it clear what they need to be looking for in the future and that they need to convey this to their doctor."
The knowledge rates shown here make "a good case for electronic medical records . . . which would allow primary care providers to access patients' cancer care," said ASCO spokesman Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang.
A second study being presented at the ASCO meeting in June found that the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa (olanzapine), used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, reduced post-chemotherapy
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