Screening for hepatitis B in chemotherapy patients: Survey of current oncology practices

T. T. Tran, M. O. Rakoski, P. Martin, F. Poordad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background Hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation occurs in up to 78% of patients receiving cytotoxic chemotherapy for nonhepatic malignancies. Reactivation can lead to hepatic dysfunction, jaundice and fulminant hepatic failure. Current recommendations include screening patients at risk for HBV prior to immunosuppressive therapy and initiating antiviral prophylaxis in patients with chronic HBV. Aim To investigate current practice among oncologists regarding HBV screening and antiviral prophylaxis in candidates for chemotherapy. Methods A survey was sent to American Medical Association registered oncologists assessing demographics and HBV screening practices. Statistical analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test. Results In all, 265 responses were received. Office-based physicians were less likely to screen for HBV prior to chemotherapy (P < 0.001). Years in practice varied: 51% with <5 years, 29% with 5-15 years and 18% with >15 years, with no difference in screening practices between groups (P = N.S.). Responders screen for HBV as follows: never - 20%, only in the presence of abnormal liver biochemistries - 30%, risk factors or history of hepatitis - 38%. In patients with known HBV, 75% of oncologists refer to specialists, 7% initiate therapy, while 15% do not refer or initiate therapy, most of whom are in an office setting (P = 0.02). Conclusions Twenty per cent of oncologists never screen for HBV prior to initiating chemotherapy. Office-based physicians were less likely to screen, treat or refer to a specialist prior to chemotherapy. Greater education regarding risk of HBV reactivation is needed for clinicians treating patients with immunosuppressive therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-246
Number of pages7
JournalAlimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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