Do primary care physicians lose contact with their colorectal cancer patients

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Colorectal Neoplasms; Primary Health Care


Health Services Research | Neoplasms | Primary Care


BACKGROUND: Primary care physicians and patients perceive that they lose contact with each other after a cancer diagnosis. The objective of this study was to determine whether colorectal cancer (CRC) patients are less likely to see their primary care physicians after cancer diagnosis.

METHODS: This was a longitudinal cohort study using 1993 to 2001 Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare claims data. Eligible patients were those with stage 0 to 1 and 2 to 3 CRC aged 67 to 89 years at diagnosis. Main measures included the proportion of individuals with a face-to-face primary care visit and mean annual primary care visits per patient at baseline and during 5 years after treatment.

RESULTS: Fewer than half of the cancer patients visited with a primary care physician at baseline. In the first year after treatment, patients with stage 0 to 1 CRC (48.9% vs 53.3%; P ≤ .001) and stage 2 to 3 CRC (43.6% vs 53.4%; P ≤ .001) significantly increased their likelihood of visiting a primary care physician from baseline. The proportion of patients with stage 0 to 1 CRC with a primary care visit remained relatively stable, and the proportion of patients with stage 2 to 3 CRC decreased somewhat between the first and fifth year after treatment. The findings for mean annual primary care visits per patient roughly paralleled those for the proportion of individuals with a primary care visit.

CONCLUSIONS: Elderly patients with CRC, especially stage 2 to 3 CRC, increase rather than decrease contact with primary care providers after diagnosis. More work is needed to understand the care that different physician specialties provide cancer patients and to support their collaboration.

DOI of Published Version



J Am Board Fam Med. 2011 Nov;24(6):704-9. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed