Primary care cancer risk assessment explored in recent CaHRU studies

A study led by CaHRU researcher, Dr Joseph Akanuwe, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at CaHRU, as part of his doctorate, ‘Barriers and facilitators to implementing a cancer risk assessment tool (QCancer) in primary care: a qualitative study‘ was recently published in the journal, Primary Health Care Research & Development. It explored the views of primary care practitioners and service users and found that supporting decision making, modifying health behaviours, improving speed of referral, and personalising care were facilitators to the use of the tool, whereas barriers included the need for additional consultation time, unnecessary worry or anxiety to patients, potential for over-referral, practitioner scepticism, the need for integration of the tool in general practice systems and training on use of the tool. The paper recommended further research for evidence that the use of QCancer improves diagnosis rates without leading to unacceptable harm from unnecessary investigations and referrals.

Breast cancer cellsDr Joseph Akanuwe’s work on cancer risk assessment tools in primary care included an earlier paper, ‘Communicating cancer risk in the primary care consultation when using a cancer risk assessment tool: qualitative study‘, published in Health Expectations. Using a Risk Analysis Framework with eight stages for effectively communicating risk, the paper identified key strategies from the perspectives of primary care practitioners and service users, for communicating cancer risk to patients by personalising risk information, involving patients when using a risk assessment tool, being open and honest, and providing time for listening, explaining and reassuring patients. These strategies could help primary care practitioners to appropriately communicate cancer risk information to patients presenting to primary care with symptoms suggestive of cancer, and potentially minimise patient anxiety.

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