Lung cancer care requires multiple transitions between providers and settings following diagnosis, and effective communication between all involved is essential for best patient outcomes.
The aim of this study was to assess patient, cancer specialist and general practitioner (GP) expectations of GP involvement in cancer care following a lung cancer diagnosis, and current communication practices between hospital cancer specialists and GPs.
Newly diagnosed lung cancer patients, their GPs and cancer specialists attending thoracic multidisciplinary team meetings (MDM) at two tertiary hospitals in Perth, Western Australia completed questionnaires assessing: 1) the expected GP role in lung cancer care; and 2) current communication practices between cancer specialists and GPs. Descriptive analyses are reported.
Of the 76 patients recruited in the study, 72 (95%) had a regular GP and 70 (92%) expected their GP to be involved in their care following diagnosis, particularly for non-cancer related care 84%, forwarding information to cancer specialists 70%, and managing side effects of cancer treatment 61%.
Of the 27 participating MDM members, 59% perceived a role for the GP during active treatment. Of the 22 cancer specialists who communicated with the GPs, 89% wanted two-way communication. In their communications with GPs, all cancer specialists providing cancer treatment (n=9) included information about the lung cancer type, complications of treatment and survival with optimal treatment.
The patient treatment plan was communicated to 93% of GP participants (n=28). The majority of GPs (96%) wanted information about patient response to treatment and 86% wanted clear instructions about their role in providing cancer-specific care.
Patients and hospital cancer specialists see a role for GPs following lung cancer diagnosis. Clear communication about GP responsibility in their patient’s cancer care, and explicit recommendations regarding side effects of cancer treatment and patient management would improve continuity of care for lung cancer patients.