Background: During the course of their cancer treatment, patients have to deal with a number of health professionals. We investigated patients' perceptions of the role of the general practitioner, with particular reference to GPs' ability to manage patients' cancer outside of the hospital setting.
Method: We took a phenomenological approach, focussing on empowerment, and any central role of the GP. In depth interviews were conducted on the same haematological cancer patients over a 2 year period. Results were analysed for main themes regarding support and management of illness.
Results: Many patients had a long term relationship with an individual GP. They perceived GPs as providing a primarily supportive rather than treatment role outside of the hospital setting, and relied on them for clarification and reassurance.
Discussion: The personal, confiding relationship between the GP and cancer patient might be better exploited by specialists. Patients could feel more empowered in relation to their condition if provided with information by their GP that is more relevant and explicit. For this to occur, specialists must first provide GPs with timely and pertinent information about their cancer management.