The role of the GP in follow-up cancer care: a systematic literature review

J Cancer Surviv. 2016 Dec;10(6):990-1011. doi: 10.1007/s11764-016-0545-4. Epub 2016 May 2.


Purpose: The purpose of the present study is to explore the role of the general practitioners, family physicians and primary care physicians (GP) in the provision of follow-up cancer care.

Methods: PubMed, MEDLINE and CINAHL were systematically searched for primary research focussing on the role of the GP from the perspective of GPs and patients. Data were extracted using a standardised form and synthesised using a qualitative descriptive approach.

Results: The initial search generated 6487 articles: 25 quantitative and 33 qualitative articles were included. Articles focused on patients' and GPs' perspectives of the GP role in follow-up cancer care. Some studies reported on the current role of the GP, barriers and enablers to GP involvement from the perspective of the GP and suggestions for future GP roles. Variations in guidelines and practice of follow-up cancer care in the primary health care sector exist. However, GPs and patients across the included studies supported a greater GP role in follow-up cancer care. This included greater support for care coordination, screening, diagnosis and management of physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment, symptom and pain relief, health promotion, palliative care and continuing normal general health care provision.

Conclusion: While there are variations in guidelines and practice of follow-up cancer care in the primary health care sector, GPs and patients across the reviewed studies supported a greater role by the GP.

Implications for cancer survivors: Greater GP role in cancer care could improve the quality of patient care for cancer survivors. Better communication between the tertiary sector and GP across the cancer phases would enable clear delineation of roles.

Keywords: Cancer; Follow-up; General practitioner; Primary health; Role.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Survivors