Background: the collaboration between geriatricians and cancer specialists holds significant potential for improving care outcomes for older cancer patients. The realisation of this collaboration partly depends on cancer specialists involving geriatricians in caring for their older patients. Yet only a few studies have focused on understanding the reasons for cancer specialists' choice to involve or not involve geriatricians in this care.
Objective: this study shed some light on the challenges of collaboration between geriatricians and cancer specialists. It describes the case of a hospital that established a clinic staffed by geriatricians to assist cancer treatment teams. The focus of this article is to identify and explain the patterns of referrals of cancer specialists to this clinic.
Results: our study suggests that the referral practices of cancer specialists are considerably influenced by their specialty. The cancer specialists who find more applied value from geriatric assessments tend to refer their patients to geriatricians. Medical oncology is the sub-specialty that struggles the most in practically using information from the assessments to adjust their treatment. Cancer specialists who regularly referred to the clinic were the ones who thought that geriatricians had a unique contribution to patient care with their assessments and also with their intervention in palliative and psychosocial care. These specialists were usually from surgery and radiation oncology.
Conclusions: ageing confers an increased risk of developing cancer. Providing adequate care to older cancer patients is still a challenge. Our study opens the ‘black box’ of collaboration between two important groups of professionals who may intervene in this care.