“Breast” practices developing in our region

September 7, 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.

Our project team, led by Dr. Tracy Sexton, Radiation Oncologist at London Regional Cancer Program, has been working with the region to develop our Well Breast Cancer Survivorship Model of Care. 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 we move forward with transitioning our breast cancer survivors to primary care, our project team will be updating CCO on the impact of all initiatives in the South West region.  Our 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. Tracy Sexton.