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New therapeutic options in breast cancer have improved survival but consequently increase the relevance of late complications. Ovarian suppression/ablation and aromatase inhibitors (AI) in the adjuvant setting have improved outcome, but have clinically important adverse effects on bone health. However, investigation and management of cancer treatment-induced bone loss (CTIBL) is poorly defined with no national guidance. In 2004, a questionnaire was sent to over 500 breast surgeons and oncologists who treat breast cancer within the United Kingdom. The questionnaire evaluated access to bone densitometry and specialist expertise as well as attitudes to investigation of CTIBL and anticipated changes in the use of AI for postmenopausal early breast cancer. A total of 354 completed questionnaires were received, 47 from clinicians not currently treating breast cancer. Of the 307 evaluable questionnaires, 164 (53%) were from breast surgeons, 112 (36%) from clinical oncologists and 31 (10%) from medical oncologists. Although most respondents recognised that CTIBL was the responsibility of the treating breast team, investigations for CTIBL are limited even though most had adequate access to bone densitometry; 98 (32%) had not requested a DXA scan in the last 6 months and 224 (73%) had requested fewer than five scans. In all, 235 (76%) were not routinely investigating patients on AI for bone loss. A total of 277 (90%) felt that their practice would benefit from national guidelines to manage these patients, and the majority (59%) had little or no confidence in interpreting DXA results and advising on treatment. This questionnaire has highlighted clear deficiencies in management of CTIBL in early breast cancer. The development of national guidelines for the management of these patients and educational initiatives for breast teams are urgently required. © 2006 Cancer Research UK.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Cancer

Publication Date





30 - 35