Perceptions of vascular access for intravenous systemic therapy and risk factors for lymphedema in early-stage breast cancer— a patient survey

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



The choice of vascular access for systemic therapy administration in breast cancer remains an area of clinical equipoise, and patient preference is not consistently acknowledged. Using a patient survey, we evaluated the patient experience with vascular access during treatment for early-stage breast cancer and explored perceived risk factors for lymphedema.


Patients who had received systemic therapy for early-stage breast cancer were surveyed at 2 Canadian cancer centres.


Responses were received from 187 patients (94%). The route of vascular access was peripheral intravenous line (IV) in 24%, a peripherally inserted central catheter (picc) in 42%, and a surgically inserted central catheter (port) in 34%. Anthracycline-based regimens were associated with a greater use of central vascular access devices (cvads— that is, a picc or port; 86/97, 89%). Trastuzumab use was associated with greater use of ports (49/64, 77%). Although few patients (7%) reported being involved in the decisions about vascular access, most were satisfied or very satisfied (88%) with their access type. Patient preference centred mainly on avoiding delays in the initiation of chemotherapy. Self-reported rates of complications (183 evaluable responses) were infiltration with peripheral IVs (9/44, 20%), local skin infections with piccs (7/77, 9%), and thrombosis with ports (4/62, 6%). Perceived risk factors for lymphedema included use of the surgical arm for blood draws (117/156, 75%) and blood pressure measurement (115/156, 74%).


Most patients reported being satisfied with the vascular access used for their treatment. Improved education and understanding about the evidence-based requirements for vascular access are needed. Perceived risk factors for lymphedema remain variable and are not evidence-based.


Early-stage breast cancer; patient surveys; vascular access


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