Does cancer treatment follow-up care help or hinder?

24 April 2013

Kingston -

A Kingston researcher is asking cancer survivors about their experience during follow-up visits after treatment to develop new options that may lead to better follow-up care and improved quality of life.

Countless cancer survivors know all too well the routine follow-up visits required after successful cancer treatment. The appointments may go on for months to years causing a range of emotions from stress to relief. A one-size-fits-all approach to follow-up care may work for some patients but are doctors relying on a long-established practice or is there a better way to monitor patients’ health after cancer treatment?

Dr Stephen Hall at Queen’s University has received a $153,029 Quality of Life Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society to find out.

“Routine follow-up visits are a time-honoured practice but maybe we can do better,” says Dr Hall, a head and neck specialist and surgeon with the Department of Otolaryngology and the Division of Cancer Care & Epidemiology at Queen's University. “If our current practice does not in fact always lead to better survival for patients, there must be a better option that takes the patient perspective into account.”

Previous research of head and neck cancer surgeons at Canadian cancer centers found no consensus on how long or how often patients should be seen, which patients should be seen more often or what patients actually need at their follow up appointment.

To build a better model for follow-up visits, Dr Hall and his team will try to understand the patient perspective of these visits. With this new funding, they will survey head and neck cancer survivors about their attitudes, needs, preferences, fears and expectation regarding routine follow-up care for three years after treatment.

The information will help Dr Hall and his team build new models of follow-up care, which can then be tested through a clinical trial to determine which model best balances the risk of cancer reoccurrence and patients’ wellbeing while also being cost-effective. Although the study focuses on testing head and neck cancer patients, the new follow-up model can be applied to patients with other types of cancers.

“I’m grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society because this funding will enable me to start the process towards a more effective follow-up policy that takes into consideration the personal experience of patients,” says Dr Hall.

The ultimate goal is to find ways to improve the quality of life of people who have survived cancer by making the practice of follow-up more efficient, targeted and effective.

“We know how important quality of life is to a patient during and after cancer treatment,” says Martin Kabat, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “We’re pleased that, with the generous support of donors, we are able to fund this important study that considers the needs and fears of patients as they try to move beyond cancer.”

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY: 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Stephanie Michaelides

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario

Phone: 416-323-7039