BACKGROUND: The incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) is increasing in high income countries. HPV-associated OPC generally presents as an invasive disease, often with lymph node involvement, in relatively young patients with minimal or no history of smoking and alcohol consumption. Knowledge on HPV-associated OPC among primary care professionals is essential for disease recognition and early start of treatment.
AIM: To examine the knowledge on HPV-associated OPC among GPs in the Netherlands.
DESIGN & SETTING: A cross-sectional postal survey among GPs in the Netherlands.
METHOD: A 12-item questionnaire was sent to 900 randomly selected general practices. Outcome measures included awareness of the link between HPV and OPC, epidemiological trends, and patient characteristics. Data were statistically analysed for sex, years after graduation, and self-rated knowledge of OPC.
RESULTS: A total of 207 GPs participated in this study. Seventy-two per cent recognised HPV as a risk factor for OPC and 76.3% were aware of the increasing incidence rate of HPV-associated OPC. In contrast, 35.7% of participants knew that patients with HPV-associated OPC are more often male, and just over half (53.6%) of the participants were aware of the younger age of these patients.
CONCLUSION: More than one-quarter of GPs in the Netherlands are unaware of HPV as a causative factor for OPC. Furthermore, there is a gap in knowledge on characteristics of patients with HPV-associated OPC . Further training on these topics could improve disease recognition and, ultimately, patient survival.