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Support Care Cancer. 2013 Apr;21(4):941-9. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1609-2. Epub 2012 Oct 4.

Increased primary healthcare utilisation among women with a history of breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of General Practice, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, P.O. Box 196, 9700 AD, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Little is known about the current role of the general practitioner (GP) in breast cancer follow-up care. This study explores primary healthcare use in the period after completion of primary breast cancer treatment.


A total of 336 women with a history of early-stage breast cancer treated with curative intent were identified in the primary care database of the Registration Network Groningen (RNG) (1998-2007) and matched with a reference population of 983 women without breast cancer on birth year and GP.


Over the entire follow-up period (starting 1 year post-diagnosis), the median numbers of face-to-face contacts, drug prescriptions, and referrals in the patient group were significantly higher than those in the reference group: 4.0 vs. 3.2/year, 12.3 vs. 8.4/year, and 0.4 vs. 0.3/year, Mann-Whitney (M-W) test pā€‰<ā€‰0.001 for all differences. At least one annual face-to-face contact was observed for 96.7 % of patients and 92.9 % of women from the reference population (Chi-square test pā€‰=ā€‰0.011). More patients than women from the reference population had face-to-face contacts for reasons related to breast cancer or were prescribed hormone antagonists and aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer. The main predictor of higher rates of face-to-face contacts and drug prescriptions was a higher age at diagnosis.


This study shows increased primary healthcare utilisation among women with a history of breast cancer, especially among the elderly. When follow-up is transferred to the primary care setting, new responsibilities of GPs might be incorporated into existing primary healthcare delivery.

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