For which health problems do cancer survivors visit their General Practitioner?

Research paper by M J MJ Heins, J C JC Korevaar, P M PM Rijken, F G FG Schellevis

Indexed on: 18 Aug '12Published on: 18 Aug '12Published in: European Journal of Cancer


Primary health care use of cancer patients is increased, even years after active treatment. Insight into the reasons for this could help in developing and improving guidelines and planning of health care, which is important given the expected increase in cancer survivors. Using data from the Netherlands Information Network of Primary Care, we selected 1256 adult breast cancer, 503 prostate cancer and 487 colorectal cancer patients diagnosed between 2001 and 2006. We compared diseases and complaints for which they contacted their General Practitioner (GP) 2-5 years after diagnosis to age and sex matched non-cancer controls from the same practice. Cancer patients consulted their GP more often than controls for acute symptoms such as abdominal pain and fatigue (18% more in breast cancer, 26% more in prostate cancer) and infections, such as cystitis or respiratory infections (45% in breast cancer and 17% in colorectal cancer). Consultations for chronic diseases and psychosocial problems were slightly increased: breast cancer patients had more contacts related to diabetes (55%), sleep disturbance (60%) and depression (64%), prostate cancer patients had more contacts related to hypertension (53) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, 34%). Adverse drug effects were almost twice as often observed in prostate and colorectal cancer patients than in controls. Fear of cancer recurrence was noted as the reason for consulting the GP in only 20 patients. Concluding, increased primary health care use in cancer survivors is mostly related to common infections and acute symptoms, which may be due to direct effects of cancer treatment or increased health concerns.