Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 1975–1982

Follow-up care after breast cancer treatment: experiences and perceptions of service provision and provider interactions in rural Australian women

  • Sheleigh Lawler
  • Kym Spathonis
  • Jane Masters
  • Jon Adams
  • Elizabeth Eakin
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-010-1041-4

Cite this article as:
Lawler, S., Spathonis, K., Masters, J. et al. Support Care Cancer (2011) 19: 1975. doi:10.1007/s00520-010-1041-4

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore and examine experiences and perceptions of follow-up care (medical and psychosocial) after active treatment for breast cancer among women living outside major Australian cities.

Method

Twenty-five semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted. Participants also completed a brief questionnaire to collect demographic, diagnosis, and treatment information. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, independently coded, and then thematically analysed.

Results

Themes that emerged from the interviews centred on patient experiences and perceptions of follow-up service provision and provider interactions related to medical, psychosocial, and lifestyle (e.g., diet, physical activity) care. Many women perceived a marked decline in the quality and duration of follow-up consultations with clinicians in comparison to their initial treatment experiences. Several women experienced considerable overlap in follow-up care when multiple providers were involved resulting in ‘unnecessary’ time and travel costs. Generally, women experienced limited availability of medical providers in rural areas, resulting in a lack of continuity in care, exacerbated by limited communication and coordination between treating health professionals. Lastly, women perceived a lack of available psychosocial support and resources for rural breast cancer survivors in their areas.

Conclusions

Breast cancer survivors living outside major Australian cities have limited access to medical follow-up care, and psychosocial and lifestyle support programmes. There is a need for greater co-ordination of care between health professionals to improve communication and reduce patient and medical system burden. Finding solutions (such as eHealth options) could help to alleviate these barriers and improve follow-up care for rural breast cancer survivors.

Keywords

Breast cancer survivorsFollow-up careRural

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheleigh Lawler
    • 1
  • Kym Spathonis
    • 1
  • Jane Masters
    • 1
  • Jon Adams
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Eakin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Population HealthThe University of Queensland, Cancer Prevention Research CentreHerstonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Population Health, Discipline of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandHerstonAustralia