A qualitative study of unmet needs and interactions with primary care among cancer survivors
Khan NF., Evans J., Rose PW.
Introduction:Despite increasing numbers, there is little research investigating the long-term needs of cancer survivors. The aim of this study is to explore the experiences of individuals who have survived at least 5 years following a cancer diagnosis, and to describe perceived unmet needs and interactions with primary care.Methods:Forty long-term survivors of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer were purposively selected for an in-depth qualitative study. We aimed for a maximum variation sample according to cancer site, gender, time since diagnosis, cancer needs, anxiety and depression. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded thematically using a grounded theory approach.Results:Analysis of the interview data is presented in four subthemes: the role they perceived for the general practitioner (GP), unmet needs, reasons for not using primary care for needs they perceived as cancer related, and ongoing care for cancer-related issues. The majority of cancer survivors did not see a role for their GP in their long-term care related to their cancer diagnosis as most considered that they did not need active follow-up, but some expressed a need for psychological services and information on possible long-term effects. Cancer survivors cited three main reasons for not using GP services in relation to their cancer diagnosis: GPs were seen as non-experts in cancer; they were perceived as too busy; and a lack of continuity within primary care made it difficult to talk about long-term issues. There was a wide variation in schedules and notification of PSA tests among the prostate cancer survivors.Discussion:The results from this project suggest that some cancer survivors have specific emotional and physical needs that could benefit from input from their primary care team, but not all cancer survivors look to their GP for their long-term cancer-related care. Better information care planning is required from specialists in order to identify those who would benefit most. © 2009 Cancer Research UK All rights reserved.