Understanding GP attitudes to cancer preventing drugs

Chemo prevention Icon Policy

Our study

GPs awareness of the potential benefits of chemoprevention.

Exec. summary

Full report

Chemoprevention, the use of cancer-preventing drugs, is a relatively new approach to cancer prevention. This has the potential to save many lives by preventing cancer developing in the first place. Ensuring evidence based chemoprevention is routinely discussed with and offered to the people who may benefit should be a priority across the UK.

However, there is considerable variability in the uptake of different medicines. In response, the Cancer Strategy for England recommends a more systematic approach to making chemoprevention available.

Understanding GP attitudes to cancer preventing drugs is aimed at increasing understanding GP attitudes towards offering the use of tamoxifen and aspirin to lower the risk of cancer, or prevent cancer. This is important because it’s an area where there is little research around clinician attitudes and knowledge.

The study surveyed 1,007 GPs from across the UK. Strikingly, it found nearly half of GPs were unaware of the potential benefits of tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer among women with a clear family history of the disease who are therefore at higher risk.

Only 24% of GPs were aware of the NICE familial breast cancer guidelines and 20% of Scottish GPs were aware of the Healthcare Improvement Scotland guidelines.

Despite low levels of awareness, more than three-quarters of GPs (77%) were willing to prescribe tamoxifen. But they want more support from specialists in secondary care in doing so. 

The study shows that more needs to be done to promote the evidence and guidance on chemoprevention. This is particularly important in regard to existing familial breast cancer guidelines in order to increase GP awareness and their confidence in prescribing tamoxifen.

In this instance the term chemoprevention was used to refer to the use of medicines to help prevent disease among people not previously affected.



[1] Independent Cancer Taskforce (2015) Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020

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