Optimizing vascular access for patients receiving intravenous systemic therapy for early-stage breast cancer—a survey of oncology nurses and physicians

N. LeVasseur, C. Stober, K. Daigle, A. Robinson, S. McDiarmid, S. Mazzarello, B. Hutton, A. Joy, D. Fergusson, J. Hilton, M. McInnes, M. Clemons



Despite advances in systemic therapy choices for patients with early-stage breast cancer, optimal practices for intravenous (IV) access remain unknown. That lack of knowledge holds particularly true for the use of central venous access devices (cvads) such as peripherally inserted central catheters (piccs) and implanted vascular access devices (ports).


Using a survey of Canadian oncologists and oncology nurses responsible for the care of breast cancer patients, we evaluated current access practices, perceptions of complications, and perceptions of risk, and we estimated complication rates and evaluated perceived risk factors for lymphedema.


Survey responses were received from 25 physicians and 57 oncology nurses. Administration of trastuzumab or an anthracycline was associated with a higher likelihood of a cvad being recommended. Other factors associated with recommendation of a cvad included prior difficult IV access and a recommendation from the chemotherapy nurse. Although the complication rates perceived to be associated with the use of piccs and ports remained high, respondents felt that cvads might improve patient quality of life. Risk factors perceived to be associated with the risk of lymphedema were axillary lymph node dissection, radiation to the axilla, and line-associated infection. Factors known to be unrelated to lymphedema risk (specifically, blood draws and blood pressure measurement) continue to be perceived as posing a higher risk.


Despite widespread use of chemotherapy for patients with breast cancer, the type of venous access used for treatment varies significantly, as do perceptions about the risks of cvad use and the risk for lymphedema development. Further prospective studies are needed to identify best-practice strategies.


Early-stage breast cancer; physician surveys; nurse surveys; vascular access

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.25.3903

Copyright © 2019 Multimed Inc.
ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)