Less than three-quarters of UK GPs are aware that human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer (OPC), a new survey has found.
Published in the BMJ Open, the cross-sectional survey of 384 GPs in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is the first study to assess the awareness of HPV-associated OPC in a sample of UK GPs. It revealed that although the level of awareness of HPV and OPC among GPs was high, the characteristics of HPV-associated OPC were less well-recognised.
When asked about their self-rated knowledge of OPC, 19.4% rated their knowledge of OPC as very good or good and 17.7% reported poor or very poor knowledge.
Just 73.9% were aware of the link between HPV and OPC. Almost 17% had not heard of the association. Fewer than half (41.5%) correctly identified HPV-associated OPC as being more common in men and less than 60% correctly reported the association with younger age.
There were no statistically significant differences in awareness in relation to years since graduation or current position.
The authors say the study demonstrates that further education on the epidemiological trends and patient demographics of HPV-associated OPC is needed to ensure early detection of disease.
“The failure of 41.2% of participants to recognise younger age as a characteristic of HPV-related OPC patients should be addressed. Good awareness of the fact that there has been a significant rise in younger patients presenting with OPC, often lacking a history of smoking and high alcohol intake, will help ensure that HPV-associated OPC is recognised early,” they say.