The expanding role of primary care in cancer control
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The nature of cancer control is changing, with an increasing emphasis, fuelled by public and political demand, on prevention, early diagnosis, and patient experience during and after treatment. At the same time, primary care is increasingly promoted, by governments and health funders worldwide, as the preferred setting for most health care for reasons of increasing need, to stabilise health-care costs, and to accommodate patient preference for care close to home. It is timely, then, to consider how this expanding role for primary care can work for cancer control, which has long been dominated by highly technical interventions centred on treatment, and in which the contribution of primary care has been largely perceived as marginal. In this Commission, expert opinion from primary care and public health professionals with academic and clinical cancer expertise—from epidemiologists, psychologists, policy makers, and cancer specialists—has contributed to a detailed consideration of the evidence for cancer control provided in primary care and community care settings. Ranging from primary prevention to end-of-life care, the scope for new models of care is explored, and the actions needed to effect change are outlined. The strengths of primary care—its continuous, coordinated, and comprehensive care for individuals and families—are particularly evident in prevention and diagnosis, in shared follow-up and survivorship care, and in end-of-life care. A strong theme of integration of care runs throughout, and its elements (clinical, vertical, and functional) and the tools needed for integrated working are described in detail. All of this change, as it evolves, will need to be underpinned by new research and by continuing and shared multiprofessional development.
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