Clinical practice guidelines recommend long-term follow-up care after treatment for early breast cancer. Shared follow-up and survivorship care for early breast cancer involves the joint participation of specialists and GPs in the planned delivery of follow-up care for women with early breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
What is the purpose of follow up care for early breast cancer?
- Early detection of local, regional or distant recurrence
- Screening for a new primary breast cancer
- Detection and management of psychosocial distress, anxiety or depression
- Detection and management of treatment-related side effects and late effects
- Reviewing and updating family history information
- Observation of outcomes of therapy
- Reviewing treatment, including potentially relevant new therapies
- Promotion of secondary prevention strategies (including maintaining a healthy body weight, regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake).
What are the benefits of shared follow-up care?Shared follow-up and survivorship care has the potential to promote and support continuity of care and whole-person care. Primary care and GPs are well placed to deliver patient-centred, best-practice follow-up and survivorship care.
- Studies demonstrate that follow-up care by a GP is a safe and effective alternative to follow-up by a specialist and provides better continuity of care (more consistent care over time).
- A shared care approach may be more convenient, as patients may have easier access to their GP than their specialist.
- Patients may benefit from their GP overseeing all of their health issues.
Cancer Australia’s program of work in shared follow-up care for early breast cancer (2009–2015):
Cancer Australia has undertaken an extensive program of work to gather and build the evidence base to inform the development of a best practice model of shared follow-up care for early breast cancer in Australia.