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Effect of the partner’s health and support on cancer patients’ GP consultation behaviour.

Heins, M.J., Hopman, E.J.C., Korevaar, J.C., Rijken, P.M., Donker, G.A., Schellevis, F.G. Effect of the partner’s health and support on cancer patients’ GP consultation behaviour. Abstract. In: Abstract book 8th meeting of Ca-PRI 'The escalating cancer challenge - essential roles for primary care', 20-22 mei 2015, Aarhus. 28
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Background
Partners of cancer patients are often an important source of support. However, the diagnosis and taking care may affect their physical and psychological health. They may, therefore, not always be able to provide the support patients need. Patients may then use formal health care as a substitute. In addition, some types of partner support may even adversely affect psychological health of patients and may thus lead to increased health care use.

Research question
Does the health of partners and the support they provide affect GP consultation behaviour of cancer patients?

Methods
Cancer patients diagnosed at adult age with a cancer type with a 5‐year survival rate >20% and no distant metastases at diagnosis were sent a questionnaire, as were their partners. Patients’ GP consultation behaviour for ‘physical’, ‘emotional’, ‘practical’, ‘family‐social’ and ‘religious/spiritual’ problems in the past 12 months was assessed. Partner support as perceived by the patient was measured by three scales: active engagement, protective buffering and overprotection.

Results
We included 219 patients and their partners. In the past 12 months, patients (0 to 19 years postdiagnosis) had most often discussed physical problems with their GP (130 patients, 60%), followed by emotional problems (61 patients, 28%). Other types of problems were less often discussed. Patients were less likely to visit their GP for physical problems when they experienced active engagement from their partner. Patients were less likely to visit their GP for emotional problems when they felt their partner was overprotecting.

Conclusion
We found that partner support affects GP consultation behaviour in cancer patients. GPs and other health care providers should therefore inform partners about beneficial types of partner support, especially active engagement. GPs could also inform partners about available support groups and facilities.
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