Cancer detection and the community pharmacist

Am Pharm. 1989 Jul;NS29(7):54-9. doi: 10.1016/s0160-3450(15)31746-3.


A questionnaire was prepared to asses community pharmacists' perceptions of their abilities to recognize the common signs and symptoms of cancer and their preferred methods for obtaining further education. Of 5,539 questionnaires mailed, 1,187 were returned and analyzed. Seventy percent of the pharmacists reported that at least one patient per month sought advice about possible cancer signs and symptoms. Almost half estimated that between 1% and 25% of the patients who had sought advice for these cancer signs and symptoms had attempted to purchase a medication to treat these symptoms. The vast majority of the pharmacists perceived that they could recognize common signs and symptoms of skin, breast, and colorectal cancers. However, the majority felt they could not identify the symptomatology for six other common cancers. Essentially all pharmacists rated education in cancer symptomatology to be important. There was no consensus as to the type of provider, format, or times for this continuing education. These data suggest that pharmacists can play an important role in the early detection and prevention of cancer. The rate of interaction by pharmacists in this study translates to more than 60,000 patients counseled about cancer symptoms per 1,000 pharmacists per year. Further education of the pharmacist in cancer detection is warranted, and appraisal of the outcome of such educational interventions on patient-referral patterns and cancer-related diagnoses is imperative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Pharmacists*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires