Cancer Survivors Uneasy With Primary Care Doctor Follow-Up

Survivors cite lack of cancer expertise, continuity of care as barriers to role of primary care doctors

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Early-stage cancer survivors have concerns about receiving cancer-related follow-up care from primary care physicians, according to a study published in the September/October issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Shawna V. Hudson, Ph.D., from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, and colleagues conducted qualitative, semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 42 patients recruited from two National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers and six community hospitals. Participants were early-stage breast and prostate cancer survivors, aged 47 to 80 years, who were at least two years beyond completion of their active cancer treatment.

The researchers found that 52 percent of participants expressed a strong preference to receive follow-up care from their oncologist. The patients described a lack of cancer expertise; limited or no involvement with original cancer care; and lack of continuity of care as barriers to the primary care physician's engagement in follow-up care. Thirty-eight percent of participants believed that primary care providers had a role to play in cancer follow-up care. Suggestions for their involvement included performing routine cancer-screening tests; supplementing cancer and cancer-related specialist care; and providing follow-up medical care when "enough time has passed" or when survivors felt ready to reintegrate into the non-cancer population.

"Findings from this study support the need for primary care to engage meaningfully in the case management of our growing population of adult cancer survivors," write the authors. "This study highlights the need for future research and interventions to address both patient and patient-perceived physician knowledge gaps related to cancer follow-up care."

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