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GPs 'unaware' of breast cancer drug advice

Press Association logoPress Association 8/11/2016

Most GPs are unaware of official guidelines that recommend prescribing a breast cancer drug as a preventative measure where appropriate, a new study suggests.

The survey of hundreds of family doctors in England, Northern Ireland and Wales found three-quarters did not know about the advice on prescribing tamoxifen, a hormone therapy treatment.

Nearly half of the respondents were unaware that the drug had been shown to be effective in preventing the disease.

Their findings follow a report by Britain's Independent Cancer Taskforce that recommended GPs prescribe the drug as a first-line defence.

Research has shown that women at high risk of developing breast cancer who take tamoxifen can be protected from the disease for 20 years.

The latest survey by Queen Mary University of London, University of Leeds, University College London and the University of Leicester was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute conference.

Researchers presented 928 respondents with a series of scenarios where a healthy patient was seeking a tamoxifen prescription. They found 51.2 per cent of the GPs knew that the drug can reduce breast cancer risk, while 24.1 per cent said they were aware of the relevant professional advice.

NICE guidelines issued in 2013 state that women with a family history of breast cancer who are deemed "high risk" should be offered tamoxifen by their GP if they have not gone through the menopause. Tamoxifen or another drug, raloxifene, should be offered for those who have.

If a patient is deemed to be at moderate risk a GP may offer tamoxifen.

According to cancer care charity MacMillan tamoxifen also lowers the risk of early breast cancer recurring after surgery or developing in the other breast and can control advanced breast tumours.

Common side effects of the drug can include hot flushes, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and disruption to menstruation. Rarer adverse reactions include blood clots, liver changes and skin complaints.

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