Survey of Primary Care Physicians on Therapeutic Approaches to Lung and Breast Cancers

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Abstract

Background

Primary care physicians (PCPs) are an important part of the decision-making process in the care of patients with cancer. The survey discussed herein evaluates what percentage of academic and community PCPs recognize benefits from systemic therapy in lung and breast cancers.

Methods

PCPs were surveyed regarding their beliefs toward systemic therapy in early- and late-stage lung and breast cancers and were asked to rate the importance of specific factors that influence their referral decisions.

Results

A total of 3444 surveys were distributed, and 316 physicians (9.1%) responded: 89 academic physicians (28%) and 227 nonacademic physicians (72%). The rate of returned surveys was equal by specialty. A total of 57%, 42.1% in lung cancer and 72.6 % in breast cancer (P < 0.001) of PCPs, believe in the curative effect of systemic therapy in early stages. Sixty-six percent (58.2% in lung cancer and 75.5% in breast cancer [P < 0.001]) believe in improved disease-free survival. Although 82% believe that systemic therapy can prevent symptoms and prolong life in advanced asymptomatic disease, half (lung cancer 50.8%, breast cancer 53.1% [P = 0.5]) of the PCPs would refer symptomatic patients with advanced disease to palliative care before referral to an oncologist. The type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s desire or reluctance to be referred to an oncologist were rated by PCPs as the most important reasons to refer patients to an oncologist (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions

Although a majority of PCPs in academia and the community acknowledge the positive effect of chemotherapy, the benefit of systemic therapy for early-stage lung cancer is less appreciated as compared with breast cancer. Patients’ preferences influence PCPs significantly in the decision to refer patients to an oncologist.

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