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Support Care Cancer. 2013 Dec;21(12):3293-300. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-1904-6. Epub 2013 Jul 26.

Involvement of general practitioners in palliative cancer care: a qualitative study.

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Institute of General Practice, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590, Frankfurt, Germany,



General practitioners play an important role in palliative care for cancer patients. The intensity of care and its medical complexity make palliative care a demanding task for general practitioners. This study explored general practitioners' perceptions of their involvement in palliative cancer care and the constraints they confront.


We conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 German general practitioners. Recruitment occurred by means of purposeful sampling to secure maximum heterogeneity. The interviews were electronically recorded, transcribed, and then analyzed using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring.


A number of themes were identified. General practitioners describe being intensely involved in the final phase of their patients' lives. When providing home-based end-of-life care to cancer patients, general practitioners become aware of the limitations in their medical skills and knowledge and their ability to provide round-the-clock care. They find it helpful and satisfying to collaborate with trusted care providers and seek to cooperate with specialized palliative care services for outpatients.


The substantial involvement of general practitioners in end-of-life care for cancer patients pushes them to their limits because of the major time commitment required, and the need for special skills for which they have received no training. It will be a challenge to provide general practitioners with the structural and personal support they need to provide home-based palliative care for their cancer patients at end of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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