Cancer survivors happy to get after-care from non-specialists, study finds

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Cancer survivors may be happy to receive after-care from medical professionals who are not cancer specialists provided they receive follow-up care for longer and get some additional services, a new study has found.

Researchers said that as more people survive the disease, specialist-led cancer follow-up is becoming increasingly expensive and is failing to meet many survivors’ needs.

Changing follow-up care in line with survivors’ preferences could lead to more efficient personalised care which could also cut costs for the NHS, they said.

The University of Aberdeen study is thought to be the first to assess British cancer survivors’ follow-up preferences and the first anywhere to compare the preferences of survivors from different cancers.

Researchers gathered information from 668 adults in north-east Scotland who had survived melanoma, breast, prostate or colorectal cancer via a postal questionnaire.

They found that cancer survivors surveyed had a strong preference to see a consultant during a face-to-face appointment when receiving cancer follow-up.

However, they appeared willing to accept follow-up from specialist nurses, registrars or GPs provided they are compensated by increased continuity of care, dietary advice and one-to-one counselling.

Dr Peter Murchie, who led the research team, said: “Cancer after-care is a hugely important but increasingly expensive patient service.

“Naturally, most survivors’ preference would be to see the most specialised cancer expert available but our survey shows that they are prepared to accept after-care from other qualified healthcare professionals as long as they receive other benefits - such as greater continuity of care, accessible dietary advice and counselling services.

“Given the practicalities, costs and the potential to develop continuous care, specialist nurse-led cancer follow-up may be an attractive alternative to the current set-up.”

The survey also found that survivors valued longer appointments but that telephone and web-based follow-up and group counselling were not considered desirable.

Survivors of colorectal cancer and melanoma said they would accept after-care delivered by registrars, specialist nurses or GPs instead of a consultant as long as they saw the same person each time and their after-care went on for longer.

Breast cancer survivors wished to see a registrar or specialist nurse, and prostate cancer survivors a GP.

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer in December.