Caring for cancer survivors: a survey of primary care physicians

Cancer. 2009 Sep 15;115(18 Suppl):4409-18. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24590.


Background: The number of long-term US cancer survivors is expected to double by the year 2050. Although primary care physicians (PCPs) provide the majority of care for long-term cancer survivors, to the authors' knowledge, few data to date have detailed PCP practice patterns, attitudes, and challenges in caring for long-term cancer survivors.

Methods: Self-administered surveys were mailed to 406 community- and academic-based general internal medicine physicians in Denver, Colorado. Survey development included in-depth physician interviews and pretesting. Of the 299 responses, 72 were ineligible; an analysis of the data from 227 surveys is presented.

Results: The response rate was 76%. Community-based PCPs comprised 70% of completed surveys. Reported care patterns were assessed to create a multidimensional care score reflecting levels of attention to 4 areas of survivorship care: monitoring for cancer recurrence, management of late effects, sexual functioning, and mental health. Only 24% of PCPs met criteria for routinely providing more multidimensional survivorship care. More recent medical school graduates reported providing less multidimensional survivorship care when compared with their more experienced colleagues. Approximately 82% of PCPs believed that primary care guidelines for adult cancer survivors are not well defined, and 47% of PCPs cited inadequate preparation and lack of formal training in cancer survivorship as a problem when delivering care to long-term survivors.

Conclusions: Although PCPs provide the bulk of care for long-term survivors within the survivorship phase of the cancer trajectory, only a small subset have reported providing multidimensional survivorship care. Results underscore a need for substantially increased training in survivorship care to support the delivery of multidimensional primary care for long-term survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Physicians, Family* / education
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Professional Practice
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Survivors*