Experiences of colorectal cancer survivors in returning to primary coordinated healthcare following treatment


Background: Advances in screening and treatments for colorectal cancer (CRC) have improved survival rates, leading to a large population of CRC survivors. Treatment for CRC can cause long-term side-effects and functioning impairments. General practitioners (GPs) have a role in meeting survivorship care needs of this group of survivors. We explored CRC survivors’ experiences of managing the consequences of treatment in the community and their perspective on the GP’s role in post-treatment care.

Methods: This was a qualitative study using an interpretive descriptive approach. Adult participants no longer actively receiving treatment for CRC were asked about: side-effects post-treatment; experiences of GP-coordinated care; perceived care gaps; and perceived GP role in post-treatment care. Thematic analysis was used for data analysis.

Results: A total of 19 interviews were conducted. Participants experienced side-effects that significantly impacted their lives; many they felt ill-prepared for. Disappointment and frustration was expressed with the healthcare system when expectations about preparation for post-treatment effects were not met. The GP was considered vital in survivorship care. Participants’ unmet needs led to self-management, self-directed information seeking and sourcing referral options, leaving them feeling like their own care coordinator. Disparities in post-treatment care between metropolitan and rural participants were observed.

Conclusion: There is a need for improved discharge preparation and information for GPs, and earlier recognition of concerns following CRC treatment to ensure timely management and access to services in the community, supported by system-level initiatives and appropriate interventions.


colorectal cancer, consumer participation, continuity of patient care, health transition, patient experiences, primary care, primary health care, qualitative study, survivorship care

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