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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Dr. Jonathan Sussman is heading up a three-year project that will look at ways of improving post treatment care for cancer patients.

Improving post-treatment care for cancer patients

Project looks at link between cancer centres and family doctors

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

You’ve just concluded a long series of cancer treatments that may have been physically and emotionally taxing and you’re now back in the care of your family doctor.

Now what?

Improving that post cancer treatment care by better connecting family doctors with regional cancer centres is the subject of a project headed by Dr. Jonathan Sussman,  an Escarpment Cancer Research Institute scientist, radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and associate professor in the department of oncology at McMaster University.

“It’s recognized that at this point the connections are not as good as they could be,” said Sussman, who has received an $825,000 grant from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer for the three-year project. “We are specifically looking at ways that can enhance the connection that will help for care during the survivorship phase after cancer therapies are completed.”

Sussman said the project will focus on three areas.

How well the cancer care system currently supports family doctors who need to refer a patient back to a cancer centre for more treatment; the development of a curriculum on post treatment care for cancer survivors that can be used in medical schools by family doctor and oncologist trainees and developing an enhanced system where family doctors and cancer centres can share information electronically.

“We’re going to do targeted interviews, mostly within the cancer system,” Sussman said.

That will include speaking to patient referral managers, chiefs of clinical services and a variety of operations staff at regional cancer centres like Juravinski.

Sussman noted post cancer care information for each patient is contained in what is called a survivorship care plan that is usually forwarded to their family doctor.

It contains a variety of information such as consultation notes, medications the patient has been taking, when they are due for various tests and follow appointments and other issues such as the need for rehabilitation.

By turning the paper plan into an electronic file that family doctors can securely access online, Sussman said it should make follow up care easier for both the doctor and the patient.

“We know the quality of care is better when the GP is involved,” Sussman said. “Right now the involvement of the GP is not as good as it could be.”

It should also help ensure that cancer patients receive other non-cancer related medical procedures such as regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks and flu shots.

The study includes researchers from Cancer Care Ontario, Cancer Care Manitoba and the British Columbia Cancer Agency.

 

 

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