In Australia, the General Practitioner’s (GP) primary role is currently in the detection of cancer, management of benign disease and symptom management in palliative care.
But GPs could also play a key role in addressing the gap in the management of women’s pre-surgical work up, treatment planning, active treatment and treatment-related side effects, says Dr Alia Kaderbha, Chair of the breast medicine specific interest group for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
Dr Alia is a research active GP who participates in breast clinics and assists with surgeries at Monash Health and she is passionate about improving the current service delivery models in breast medicine.
“I believe there are gaps at the interface of GP and specialist care in the treatment of breast cancer. GPs are ideally placed to manage many of the long term effects of cancer and its treatment, including the psychosocial needs of cancer survivors”, Dr Kaderbhai said.
“GPs are in the best position to be able to facilitate communication between specialists and between the treatment team and the family practitioner”, she said.
“GPs that are recognised with skills in breast medicine would stand to become an extremely valuable asset to the multidisciplinary breast team, providing a skill set that may enhance patient care through all stages from diagnosis, throughout treatment to long-term care for cancer survivors”, Dr Kaderbha said.
“GPs should be equipped to have a growing role in breast cancer care and control, and developments in education and training should be harnessed to support this goal”, she said.
“The GP can also see the patient through the follow-up phase of care, offering continuity in managing the long-term effects of treatment, including psychosocial issues related to life after breast cancer”, Dr Kaderbha said.
“I envision the future of breast medicine to involve a greater integration and communication between GPs and specialists with evolving shared care,” Dr Kaderbha said.
Around 16,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year, and of those more than 89% will survive for 5 years or more. (*AIHW estimation of 2016 incidence of female breast cancer).