There are 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S., and with one-in-three women and one-in-two men expected to be diagnosed with cancer at sometime during their lifetime, that number is expected to double by 2016. Providing long-term care for survivors will become increasingly challenging with looming shortages of oncology specialists and primary care physicians (PCPs), a new report says.
Faced with a growing survivor population, researchers wanted to know if current cancer survivors are receiving care for long-term and late medical effects of cancer or its treatment, as well as psychosocial support, and having their other diseases or conditions managed as they transition from acute care to post-treatment.
The "Survey of Physicians Attitudes Regarding the Care of Cancer Survivors" asked both groups of doctors several questions about providing cancer survivorship care, including the doctors' confidence in their knowledge about such care, and cancer surveillance practices. The results of the first national representative survey of doctors found major differences in knowledge, attitudes and practices of oncologists and PCPs. These differences pose "significant barriers" to survivors’ coordinated care.
Most people transition to primary care physicians following their cancer treatment, so says the findings of the doctor survey are “of considerable concern,” says the study’s lead author, Arnold L. Potosky, Ph.D., director of health services research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“What the survey tells us is that many doctors, particularly primary care doctors don't have a high level of confidence in their own knowledge of some aspects of survivorship care, and many oncologists believe that PCPs are not adequately prepared to provide such care. We also see some evidence of knowledge deficits in both physician groups in terms of guideline-based care for survivors," says Dr. Potosky.