Patients' preferences for post-treatment breast cancer follow-up in primary care vs. secondary care: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Objective

To explore patients' preferences for follow-up in primary care vs. secondary care.

Methods

A cross-sectional design was employed, involving semi-structured interviews with 70 female patients with a history of early-stage breast cancer. Using descriptive content analysis, interview transcripts were analysed independently and thematically by two researchers.

Findings

Patients expressed the strongest preference for annual visits (31/68), a schedule with a decreasing frequency over time (27/68), and follow-up > 10 years, including lifelong follow-up (20/64). The majority (56/61) preferred to receive follow-up care from the same care provider over time, for reasons related to a personal doctor–patient relationship and the physician's knowledge of the patient's history. About 75% (43/56) preferred specialist follow-up to other follow-up models. However, primary care-based follow-up would be accepted by 57% (39/68) provided that there is good communication between GPs and specialists, and sufficient knowledge among GPs about follow-up. Perceived benefits of primary care-based follow-up referred to the personal nature of the GP–patient relationship and the easy access to primary care. Perceived barriers included limited oncology knowledge and skills, time available, motivation among GPs to provide follow-up care and patients' confidence with the present specialist follow-up.

Conclusions

More than half of the patients were open to primary care-based follow-up. Patients' confidence with this follow-up model may increase by using survivorship care plans to facilitate communication across the primary/secondary interface and with patients. Training GPs to improve their oncology knowledge and skills might also increase patients' confidence.

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