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O, H, N, and H: Primary care physicians role in following up cancer survivors

Introduction: Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and is likely to worsen in the coming years. As the magnitude of cancer is increasing, oncologists are facing challenges beyond their capabilities. Hence, family physicians have many responsibilities in cancer care. Their role is well established in the western community, but not in our country.

Objectives: To assess and explore primary health care physicians’ knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding breast and colon cancer survivors in Saudi Arabia.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional qualitative study. A self-administered anonymous questionnaire in English was distributed to 200 primary health care physicians in Saudi Arabia. The questionnaire was adapted from the ’Survey of Physician Attitudes regarding the Care of Cancer Survivors’, conducted by the National Cancer Institute. Physicians’ knowledge was evaluated as a percentage of correctly answered cancer management questions. Results were reported as an average per cent of correct answers with corresponding 95% confidence limits.

Results: Out of 200-targeted primary care physicians 166 successfully responded to the questionnaire. The majority were board qualified. Sixty-one per cent of the physicians had 5 or more years experience after obtaining Primary Health Care Board. Around 80% were not willing to follow patients with cancer within the first 5 years after therapy. The knowledge among primary care physicians was as low as 0% and as high as 60% for both breast and colon cancer management. There was no correlation between level of knowledge and board qualification. However, those with more than 10 years of experience had more knowledge.

Conclusion: There is a significant gap in the knowledge of managing patients with colon and breast cancer among primary care physicians in Saudi Arabia. An educational programme for primary care physicians is needed to improve such knowledge.




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