THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Even after cancer patients beat their disease, many still grapple with health issues related to their treatments, including cardiovascular and bone problems. But, survivors often say it's unclear which doctor to turn to for follow-up care.
A new study of 18 prostate and 24 breast cancer survivors suggests the majority would prefer to continue seeing their oncologists when health issues crop up, because they aren't confident their primary care physicians are equipped to address their post-cancer health needs.
Study author Dr. Shawna Hudson, an associate professor of family medicine and community health at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said the finds are concerning.
"For early stage cancer survivors, we expect your primary care physician is going to play a stronger role in follow-up after cancer treatment," said Hudson.
She said statistics show almost one-third of 36.6 million annual office visits made for cancer care are at primary care doctors' offices, and it's expected that number will increase by 2020, when a shortage of cancer specialists is predicted.
The patients in the study were all diagnosed in the early stage of their disease and had finished treatment two or more years before participating in the research, which was published online Sept. 10 and in the September/October print issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
The participants, whose median age was 64 and three-quarters of whom were women, answered questions during an in-depth telephone interview. Fifty-two percent said they preferred to visit their cancer specialist for follow-up medical care, while 79 percent believed that cancer follow-up care requires a specialist's knowledge of cancer that primary care physicians do not possess. One-third did think there could be a role for their primary care doctors, as long as they were kept
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