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For many people, having cancer is a disempowering experience that they feel they have little control over. Chemotherapy remains a key part of cancer treatment pathways and, currently, patients are most likely to be offered systemic anti-cancer therapy in a hospital or clinic. However, it’s also possible for patients to have it delivered safely and effectively in their own homes. With one in two people in the UK likely to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, improving access to at-home cancer treatment could present an opportunity to increase choice and autonomy for millions of patients every year.

Recent research, commissioned by Sciensus, highlights that 75% of patients who received cancer treatment in a clinic would have been interested in finding out more about chemotherapy at home had they been given the choice. Crucially, however, researchers found that less than a third of people who had cancer treatment in a clinic knew that home treatment was an option, with just 10% of those interviewed being offered the choice.

Importantly, insight from patients who had opted to receive cancer treatment at home suggests that receiving treatment in their home environment and to their schedule helped to restore a sense of control and choice. Patients felt they had autonomy to decide certain aspects of their treatment, for example, what room they used and who was with them.

One patient said: “Every time I have it, I have it somewhere different. In the summer I tended to have it in the kitchen because then we can have the back doors open. Now in the winter as it’s got colder, we’ve moved into the living room and have it in there.”

The findings also showed differences in how patients described their emotions during treatment. While patients reported feeling anxious and low regardless of treatment location, those who had treatment at home also shared a sense of resilience and hope, perhaps because they felt more supported and comfortable in their home environment.

So, how can we increase awareness of chemotherapy at home and ensure it’s offered to more eligible patients?

Participants who had received chemotherapy in a clinic were asked what factors they would have considered had they been given the option of cancer treatment at home. Almost half said that a recommendation from their oncologist would have been a key factor in their decision. Most also reported a need for more information about what chemotherapy at home would look like, and if their home environment would be suitable.

This highlights a need for better information to support oncologists in feeling comfortable explaining and offering cancer treatment at home to patients, and better patient resources to support their understanding and decision-making. Sciensus aims to work with clinicians and healthcare providers to improve awareness and understanding of at-home systemic anti-cancer therapy to help improve patient choice and treatment options.

To read a full summary of the research, please visit Investigating Patient Benefits in Home vs. Clinic-Based Treatment.