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Can J Rural Med. 2004 Spring;9(2):101-7.

Cancer follow-up care in New Brunswick: cancer surveillance, support issues and fear of recurrence.

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Dalhousie University Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hopital, Fredericton, NB.


The purpose of this study was to find out, from the patient's perspective and using qualitative methodology, how cancer follow-up care is managed in a New Brunswick health region. From focus group discussions with 23 participants 1-year post-cancer diagnosis, 3 prominent themes emerged: fear of recurrence, cancer surveillance/testing and support issues. The fear of recurrence permeates day-to-day life for many patients. To allay these fears, some patients feel a need to be subjected to extensive cancer surveillance. Emotional support, which is important for survivors, is complex. The majority of the participants in this study received cancer follow-up care from specialists. More rural than urban participants received their follow-up care from their family physicians (FPs). Participants had high expectations for follow-up care, regardless of which type of physician--specialist or FP--provided it. If physicians did not provide the level and intensity of care expected by their patients, they were considered uncaring. We advocate a "transition of care" or "shared care" protocol between the acute cancer treatment provider and the FP, particularly in rural areas. This would ensure that cancer patients have a clear understanding of where to turn for ongoing surveillance, when they fear cancer recurrence or need support. For optimized cancer follow-up care, physicians must be cognizant that careful emotional and clinical management over an indefinite period of time is required, and they must recognize the individual needs of each patient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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