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Fam Pract. 1998 Oct;15(5):415-9.

Communication between physicians and with patients suffering from breast cancer.

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Hospital De Weezenlanden, Zwolle, The Netherlands.



The communication between GP and specialists is vital for the patient suffering from breast cancer.


The aim of this study was to investigate (i) the speed and type of communication between GPs, specialists and patients with breast cancer, and (ii) the problems that GPs encounter in the communication with specialists concerning these patients.


In April 1995, 246 Dutch GPs from the Zwolle region (600 000 inhabitants) were invited to complete a questionnaire, using the information from the medical record and focusing on the last patient consulted with a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer.


Valid replies were received from 150 (61 %) GPs. The median period between initial referral date and receipt of the definite diagnosis from the surgeon was 4 weeks. After the patient's first appointment with the surgeon, the GPs received reports for 24% of the patients within 3 days; for 31% within 3-7 days; and for 16% of the patients after more than 2 weeks. After the first consultation between patient and surgeon, 68 (45%) of the 150 GPs reported that the patient contacted them; at this stage only 30 (20%) of these GPs had received a report from the surgeon. Thirty-one (21%) GPs did not contact the patient after receival of the definite diagnosis. GPs stated that the communication on patients with breast cancer is too slow (49%), or not frequent enough (25%); 25% of GPs found that the distribution of tasks between them and the specialists are not well described.


In the diagnostic stage of breast cancer the communication between GPs, specialists and patients varies widely, is too slow and is incomplete. An effect of this unsatisfactory communication is that the patient herself is the messenger of the bad news.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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