Rose, Peter W., Watson, Eila, Yudkin, Patricia, Emery, Jon, Murphy, Mike, Fuller, Alice and Lucassen, Anneke
Referral of patients with a family history of breast/ovarian cancer—GPs' knowledge and expectations
Family Practice, 18, (5), .
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Background: Primary care is expected to play a significant role in the management of patients with genetic problems. Currently, this particularly involves patients with a family history of cancer. If GPs are to exercise their gatekeeper role efficiently in this area, they must be able to evaluate genetic risk and make appropriate referral decisions.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine GPs' ability to assess risk and to make appropriate referral decisions for women with a family history of breast/ovarian cancer, and to determine their expectations of a referral to secondary care.
Method: A questionnaire survey was carried out of the 282 GP principals working within Bedfordshire Health Authority. GPs were asked to make decisions for six simulated cases of women presenting with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Results: A total of 164 (58%) GPs returned completed questionnaires. Across the six family histories, the percentage of GPs making an appropriate risk assessment ranged from 21% [95% confidence interval (CI) 14–27%] to 63% (95% CI 56–71%), and an appropriate referral decision ranged from 40% (95% CI 32–48%) to 80% (95% CI 73–86%). Regardless of their accuracy of risk assessment, most GPs were consistent in deciding not to refer low risk women and to refer moderate and high risk women (range 71–85% of GPs for the six family histories). Only 43 (26%, 95% CI 20–33%) of GPs knew the three most important criteria for risk assessment.
Conclusions: GPs require more help and education to enable them to perform their gatekeeper role satisfactorily when assessing patients with a family history of breast/ovarian cancer.
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