More ‘common symptoms’ after cancer

Cancer survivors visit their general practitioner more often for common symptoms like back pain, abdominal pain, or infections than the general population. The number of contacts due to chronic diseases and psychosocial problems is only slightly higher, according to a publication of NIVEL researchers in the European Journal of Cancer.

The number of cancer survivors is increasing and these patients often experience consequences of cancer and its treatment. Pain, fatigue and concentration problems that start during treatment may persist for years. In countries with a strong primary care system, like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the general practitioner (GP) will most likely be the first point of reference for these patients. Two to five years after a cancer diagnosis, patients turn out to visit their GP more often for back pain, abdominal pain or infections than the general population.
“We expected that cancer survivors would visit their GP more often for psychosocial problems or fear of cancer recurrence”, says NIVEL research coordinator Joke Korevaar. “But this does not appear to be the main reason for the higher number of GP visits in cancer survivors. They do visit their GP more often for common complaints, which could be related to effects of cancer or its treatment. Fear that these symptoms indicate cancer recurrence could also play a role. Guidelines for the care of cancer survivors should encourage GPs to be alert for late effects of cancer and its treatment, even years after treatment has ended.”
Results of this study are based on data from the Netherlands Information Network of Primary Care (LINH) about GP visits between 2002 and 2010 by 1256 women with breast cancer, 503 men with prostate cancer and 487 colorectal cancer patients. Researchers looked at the period between two and five years after diagnosis and compared health care use with that of non-cancer controls from the same practices and of the same age and sex. LINH comprises data from 84 general practices and over 335.000 patients. In these practices, data about contacts, morbidity, prescriptions and referrals are collected on a continuous basis.
- Dutch Cancer SocietyAlp D’HuZes
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