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    One size may not fit all when it comes to cancer follow-up care

    Queen’s University researcher Stephen Hall is examining whether follow-up visits for cancer survivors are working or if there is a better way to monitor patients’ health after cancer treatment.

    In recognition of this innovative idea, the Canadian Cancer Society honoured Dr. Hall with a Quality of Life grant to study the most effective way to follow-up after treatments.

    “Routine follow-up visits are a time-honoured practice, but maybe we can do better,” says Dr Hall, a head and neck oncology surgeon with the Department of Otolaryngology and the Division of Cancer Care & Epidemiology at Queen's. “If our current practice does not in fact always lead to better survival for patients, there must be a better option that takes the patient perspective into account. This is very expensive screening that can be improved taking into consideration the patients, the physicians and the health care system.”

    Previous research about the practices of head and neck cancer specialists at Canadian cancer centers found no consensus on how long or how often patients should be seen, which patients should be seen more often or what patients actually need at their follow up appointment.

    To build a better model for follow-up visits, Dr Hall and his team will try to understand the patient perspective of these visits. With this new funding, they will survey head and neck cancer survivors about their attitudes, needs, preferences, fears and expectation regarding routine follow-up care for three years after treatment.

    “We know how important quality of life is to a patient during and after cancer treatment,” says Martin Kabat, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “We’re pleased that, with the generous support of donors, we are able to fund this important study that considers the needs and fears of patients as they try to move beyond cancer.”

    The ultimate goal is to find ways to improve the quality of life of people who have survived cancer by making the practice of follow-up more efficient, targeted and effective.