Background: In Australia, melanoma is managed in primary and secondary care settings. An individual concerned about a suspicious lesion typically presents first to their GP.
Aim: To identify factors influencing GPs’ decisions to diagnose, treat, or refer patients with suspected melanoma.
Design & setting: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 23 GPs working in general practice or skin cancer clinics in Australia.
Method: The semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded, de-identified, and professionally transcribed. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.
Results: Considerable variation existed in GPs’ self-reported confidence and involvement in melanoma management. Multiple factors were identified as influencing GPs’ decisions to diagnose, treat, or refer patients with suspected or confirmed melanoma. Health system level factors included the overlapping roles of GPs and specialists, and access to and/or availability of specialists. Practice level factors included opportunities for formal and informal training, and having a GP with a special interest in skin cancer within their practice. GP and patient level factors included the GP’s clinical interests, the clinical features (for example, site and size) and histopathology of the suspected melanoma, eligibility for possible sentinel lymph node biopsy, and patient preferences. For some GPs, concerns over misdiagnosis and the option of referring patients at any stage in the melanoma management continuum appeared to affect their interest and confidence in melanoma management.
Conclusion: GP involvement in melanoma patient care can extend well beyond cancer screening, prevention and supportive care roles to include provision of definitive melanoma patient management. GPs with an interest in being involved in melanoma management should be encouraged and supported to develop the skills needed to manage these patients, and to refer when appropriate.
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- general practice
- qualitative research
- primary healthcare