Traditionally follow-up of cancer patients in Australia has occurred in secondary care and patients sometimes continue to attend specialist clinics for follow-up many years after they have been diagnosed. This is the first Australian study to explore the attitudes of surgical, radiation and medical oncologists, general medical practitioners (GPs) and cancer patients to follow-up cancer care.
This study investigates attitudes and beliefs of patients, GPs, surgical, radiation and medical oncologists, with regards to follow-up care of patients who have no current evidence of recurrent cancer. The aim is to explore the feasibility of follow-up care and consultations being performed by GP’s, rather than by specialist clinicians in hospital based cancer clinics.
This research is a qualitative, feasibility study involving 60 participants, including 20 patients, 20 GPs and 20 hospital-based medical, radiation and surgical oncologists. Patients attending follow-up consultations at the Prince of Wales Hospital Cancer Clinic who have completed treatment for either breast or colorectal cancer, were invited to participate by letter from their treating specialists. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, emergent themes identified using the qualitative research framework developed by Miles and Huberman1, validated by inter-rater coding by members of the research team, and analysed using NVivo qualitative research software. This study was approved by the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee.
Emergent themes include; psychosocial needs of patients, capability of follow-up care providers, distinguishing follow-up care requirements in relation to tumour type and relationships between primary care providers, specialist clinicians and patients.
Cancer follow-up care encompasses psychosocial needs of patients, continual assessments and monitoring. With consideration of the themes emerging from this pilot study an intervention study is planned comparing a package of primary care-led cancer follow-up care with usual care.