Regional “Breast” Practices Developing For Follow-up Care

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) has provided funding to all regional cancer programs in the province to develop and implement a sustainable strategy to transition follow-up care for breast cancer patients.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in Ontario. The promotion of early screening and detection, enhanced diagnostic processes, and improved treatments have changed the outcomes for breast cancer patients. In fact, 88 per cent of women with early breast cancer are surpassing the five year survival mark. Consequently, the number of breast cancer survivors who attend “well” follow-up visits after treatment has increased.

Research demonstrates that follow-up by family doctors and nurse practitioners can provide well breast cancer patients with high levels of satisfaction and positive outcomes in their care.   

Despite this evidence there is significant variation in the way breast cancer follow-up care is provided in Ontario. For example, half of breast cancer survivors receive more imaging than recommended for follow-up. Although there are some breast cancer patients who require longer follow-up at the regional cancer centre, most could be followed by primary care closer to home. This change will allow regional cancer centres to focus on the provision of timely, quality cancer care for patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer.

Dr. Tracy Sexton, radiation oncologist at the London Regional Cancer Program and clinical lead for the Well Breast Cancer Model of Care project at the South West Regional Cancer Program, is working with a project team to develop the best practice model for the region. The model includes a number of initiatives such as, “After Breast Care” workshops for patient transition and continuing medical education for primary care providers.

As transitioning breast cancer survivors to primary care moves forward, the project team will be updating CCO on the impact of all initiatives in the South West region. Feedback to CCO will include information about patient and primary provider satisfaction.

“By actively engaging primary care providers and specialists in breast cancer follow-up care, we hope to improve the transition of well breast cancer survivors from active treatment to wellness,” says Dr. Sexton. 

Photo: Dr. Leslie Scott and her patient at a well breast follow up appointment at the Breast Care Centre of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, which is a partner in regional cancer care.