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CMAJ Open. 2017 Oct 17;5(4):E773-E778. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20170039.

The role of patient and physician advocacy in reducing wait times for cancer care: a qualitative analysis.

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Affiliations: Division of Community Health and Humanities (Mathews, Ryan), Faculty of Medicine, Health Sciences Centre, Memorial University, St. John's, NL; Faculty of Nursing (Bulman), University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB.



There is growing interest in the role of physician as health advocate; however, few studies have documented advocacy from the patient's perspective. To address this gap, we examined the experiences of patients with cancer from the onset of symptoms to the start of treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador and aimed to describe wait times and efforts to improve timeliness of care from the patients' perspective.


We conducted qualitative interviews with 60 participants aged 19 years or more with breast, colorectal, lung or prostate cancer who were recruited from a survey of patients with cancer that was carried out as an earlier part of a larger study. All survey participants had received care at regional cancer clinics in Newfoundland and Labrador and were selected by means of purposive sampling based on their type of cancer, level of satisfaction with care and place of residence (urban, semiurban or rural). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded by means of a thematic approach.


Participants described actions taken by themselves, their families/friends or members of their health care team to reduce their wait for a diagnosis and/or treatment. In all instances, participants believed that these actions resulted in more timely care. Participants reported that "insider knowledge" of health care professionals (whether friends, family members or members of the care team) was particularly valuable in reducing delays.


The use of advocacy was relatively commonplace. The role of advocacy, whether it originates from patient or caregiver, is important to ensure access to timely, good-quality cancer care.

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