The role of the primary care physician during the active treatment phase

Prim Care. 2009 Dec;36(4):685-702. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2009.07.001.


Although more research needs to be done to determine the optimal role for PCPs during the active phase of cancer treatment, patients, PCPs, and oncologists all see a significant role for primary care in the care of patients with cancer. In the United States, family physicians are actively involved in the care of cancer patients, especially in provision of support, education, and care of intercurrent illness and chronic disease. Fatigue, depression, pain, and psychosocial distress are important symptoms that should be screened for and addressed. The PCP should be aware of adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation and cancer-related emergencies. Sexual and intimacy concerns, including contraception and fertility, are important to patients entering active cancer treatment but may not be addressed adequately in usual cancer care. Advising the patient in active cancer treatment on issues of general health including common nutritional issues can provide value through the treatment period. Use of CAM is common and several modalities have been shown to benefit patients in the course of cancer treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Family Practice / organization & administration*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neutropenia / etiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration
  • United States