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Effect of the partner’s health and support on cancer patients’ use of general practitioner care.

Heins, M.J., Hopman, E.P.C., Korevaar, J.C., Schellevis, F.G., Donker, G.A., Rijken, M. Effect of the partner’s health and support on cancer patients’ use of general practitioner care. Psycho-Oncology: 2016, 25(5), 559-566
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Objective
Cancer and its treatment often have a profound impact on patients, leading to increased health care use in the years after diagnosis. Social support is an important determinant of health care use. Partners of cancer patients may not always be able to provide all support patients need and patients may then revert to professional health care. We examined whether partners' health and the support they provide affect the use of general practitioner (GP) care in cancer patients.

Methods
Cancer patients aged ≥18, diagnosed <20 years ago with a cancer type with a 5-year survival rate >20% and no distant metastases were sent a questionnaire, along with their partners. Patients' self-reported recent use of GP care, i.e. whether they had discussed health problems with the GP in the past year, was assessed. Partner support as perceived by the patient was measured on three scales: Active engagement, protective buffering and overprotection.

Results
We included 219 patients and partners. Many patients discussed physical and emotional problems with their GP (60% and 28% of patients, respectively). Patients were less likely to discuss physical problems when they experienced active engagement and protective buffering, the latter only for females.

Conclusion
Partner support affects use of GP care in cancer patients. GPs should therefore pay attention to the support style of the partner. GPs could ask about the support provided by the partner and inform both patients and partners about support groups where they can share experiences. (aut. ref.)