Background: The role of the general practitioner (GP) in cancer follow-up is poorly defined. We wanted to describe and analyse the role of the GP during initial follow-up of patients with recently treated cancer, from the perspective of patients, their relatives and their GPs.
Methods: One focus group interview with six GPs from the city of Bodø and individual interviews with 17 GPs from the city of Tromsø in North Norway. Text analysis of the transcribed interviews and of free text comments in two questionnaires from 91 patients with cancer diagnosed between October 1999 and September 2000 and their relatives from Tromsø.
Results: The role of the GP in follow-up of patients with recently treated cancer is discussed under five main headings: patient involvement, treating the cancer and treating the patient, time and accessibility, limits to competence, and the GP and the hospital should work together.
Conclusion: The GP has a place in the follow-up of many patients with cancer, also in the initial phase after treatment. Patients trust their GP to provide competent care, especially when they have more complex health care needs on top of their cancer. GPs agree to take a more prominent role for cancer patients, provided there is good access to specialist advice. Plans for follow-up of individual patients could in many cases improve care and cooperation. Such plans could be made preferably before discharge from in-patient care by a team consisting of the patient, a carer, a hospital specialist and a general practitioner. Patients and GPs call on hospital doctors to initiate such collaboration.