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Study: Doctors differ in how best to care for America's 12 million cancer survivors
Date:7/25/2011

Washington, DC -- There are major differences between oncologists and primary care physicians regarding knowledge, attitudes, and practices required to care for American's 12 million cancer survivors. That is the key finding of the first nationally representative survey of doctors that reveals how these differences pose significant barriers to effective communication and coordination of care following initial cancer treatment.

The study, published online today in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, included results of a survey of 1,072 primary cancer physicians (PCP) and 1,130 oncologists randomly sampled from among all U.S. practicing physicians during 2009.

The authors say the findings are of considerable concern, given the rapidly increasing cancer survivor population and looming shortages of both oncology specialists and primary care physicians who will be needed to provide care to this population. Because many individuals stop seeing their oncologist after the first few years following their initial cancer treatment, primary care doctors often assume a large share of providing care to survivors. Optimal cancer survivorship care includes not only surveillance for recurrence or second cancers, but also addressing the long-term and late medical effects of cancer or its treatment, providing psychosocial support, and managing other diseases or conditions.

Several factors may present challenges to ensuring a smooth transition for survivors as they move from initial acute care to post-treatment care, says the study's lead author, Arnold L Potosky, Ph.D., director of health services research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

"What the survey tells us is that many doctors, particularly primary care doctors don't have a high level of confidence in their own knowledge of some aspects of survivorship care, and many oncologists believe that PCPs are n
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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