Aims: As a result of the rising prevalence of breast cancer and improved adjuvant treatment strategies, oncologists are faced with an ever-increasing workload of providing long-term follow-up care for early-stage breast cancer patients. In order to cope with these growing demands, innovative follow-up strategies are urgently required.
Materials and methods: To explore if patient transfer back to the family physician for follow-up was a potential option, a prospective programme of planned discharge was established for all patients who had completed adjuvant chemo/radiotherapy or had started adjuvant endocrine therapy. Patient and family physician information packages were also provided.
Results: Between April and August 2005, of the 193 patients assessed for transfer back to the family physician for follow-up care, transfer was possible in 43%. Fifty-seven per cent (or 110 patients) were unsuitable for transfer back to the family physician. The reasons cited among those deemed unsuitable for transfer were as follows: clinical trial enrollment (50.9%), ongoing endocrine treatment (31.8%), new symptoms (6.3%), and patient refusal (0.9%). In both discharged and non-discharged groups, patients were also frequently being followed by other oncologists (surgical and/or radiation).
Conclusion: Transfer of care back to family physicians for follow-up may offer a strategy to control workload volumes, and thus enable oncologists to focus their efforts on newly diagnosed and advanced-stage patients with more complex patient care needs.