Introduction: Due to growth in cancer survivorship and subsequent resource limitations, the current UK position of follow-up services is unsustainable. With people living longer after a cancer diagnosis, supported self-management for ongoing treatment-related chronic conditions is a fundamental component of aftercare services. Alternative models to traditional hospital aftercare require consideration in terms of clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
Methods: 'Evidence to Inform the Cancer Reform Strategy: The Clinical Effectiveness of Follow-Up Services after Treatment for Cancer' (Centre for Reviews and Dissemination 2007) has been updated using a number of quality-controlled databases. Correspondence with experts was also sought to identify current initiatives.
Result: The review highlights a shift towards patient empowerment via individualised and group education programmes aimed at increasing survivor's ability to better manage their condition and the effects of treatment, allowing for self-referral or rapid access to health services when needed. The role of specialist nurses as key facilitators of supportive aftercare is emphasised, as is a move towards technology-based aftercare in the form of telephone or web-based services.
Conclusions: The challenge will be replacing traditional clinic follow-up with alternative methods in a cost-effective way that is either as equally effective, or more so. To establish this, more rigorous trials are needed, with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up assessments.
Implications for cancer survivors: Increasing patient confidence to initiate follow-up specific to their needs is likely to increase the workload of primary care providers, who will need training for this.