French general practitioners' sense of isolation in the management of elderly cancer patients

Fam Pract. 2016 Oct;33(5):551-6. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmw034. Epub 2016 Jun 28.


Background: Cancer care in people over 75 years of age is particularly complex and requires collaboration between oncologists, geriatricians, GPs and other professional and family carers. To improve the care pathways for elderly people living with cancer, the French health authorities have created a network of oncologists and geriatricians; however, GPs experience difficulties in establishing their place in this network.

Objective: This study aimed to analyse the impressions of French GPs involved in the care of elderly patients with cancer, including their feelings regarding their relationships with their oncologist and geriatrician colleagues.

Methods: A qualitative approach using focus groups was employed. The proceedings of these focus groups were recorded, retranscribed and subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: Although heavily involved in the care of their elderly patients living with cancer, the GPs who participated reported feeling isolated in their role at each step during the course of the disease. The principal themes addressed were screening and diagnosis, therapeutic decisions, multidisciplinary consultation meetings, the announcement of the diagnosis and monitoring at home. Their relationships with their oncologist colleagues showed much room for improvement, and they were unaware of the oncogeriatric network.

Conclusions: Improving the communication between GPs, oncologists and geriatric medicine seems to be one response to the isolation that GPs feel when caring for older people with cancer. At the primary care level, integration of GPs into the oncogeriatric network and the creation of a cancer care communication system in collaboration with the relevant hospital teams may be effective solutions.

Keywords: Comprehensive health care; GP; continuity of patient care; disease management; geriatric oncology; interdisciplinary communication..

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • France
  • General Practitioners / psychology*
  • Geriatrics
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Referral and Consultation