Few breast cancer survivors believe that "virtual" consultations with a physician or nurse conducted online or over the phone would alleviate their cancer-related stress, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Reuters reports.
For the study, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston surveyed 218 breast cancer survivors about how comfortable they would feel receiving follow-up care by:
- Visiting a cancer doctor;
- Visiting a primary care physician;
- Visiting a nurse practitioner; or
- Consulting with a doctor or nurse over the phone or Internet.
Survey respondents said in-person visits with a cancer doctor would be the most likely to reduce their worries about cancer and 80% of respondents said they believed such appointments would increase their chances of survival.
Meanwhile, more than half of respondents said in-person visits with a primary care physician or a nurse practitioner would reduce their cancer worries and increase their chances of survival.
However, the study found that only:
- 20% of respondents said virtual consultations over the phone or Internet would improve their chances of survival; and
- 12% of respondents said virtual consultations would reduce their cancer-related stress.
In addition, some respondents said virtual visits would increase their stress and reduce their chances of survival.
Erica Mayer -- a Dana-Farber physician, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and study co-author -- said respondents might have been wary of virtual visits because the survey was brief and did not fully explain what a virtual consultation would entail. She said the researchers envisioned the virtual visits as a way for cancer survivors who are doing well to have regular check-ins, not as a replacement for cancer screenings or physical exams.
Christine Hill-Kayser -- a radiation oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study -- said many patients might be unfamiliar with the idea of virtual medical consultations. She said, "When patients first hear, 'Oh, we can do a follow-up from your house, you don't even have to come in,' it might seem like they're not getting as good care" (Pittman, Reuters, 12/15).