Oral Cancer Screening by Physicians Not Recommended
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and approximately 27% of these cases result in death. Survival rates for cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx are greatest when the abnormal growth is detected in its earliest stages. That notwithstanding, the US Preventive Services Task Force, in an update to its 2004 statement, “Screening for Oral Cancer,” has concluded that it is unable to recommend for or against routine oral cancer screenings by primary care physicians. The task force cited insufficient evidence in assessing the balance of benefits and harm in such screenings among asymptomatic adults. This applies only to primary care physicians—not dentists, otolaryngologists, or oral health professionals. The Annals of Internal Medicine published the statement online in November 2013.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs believes this update highlights the important role played by oral health professionals in screening the oral cavity for diseases and other serious conditions. “This statement places even greater importance on regular periodic evaluation by patients’ dentists to improve early detection of oral and dental conditions of the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth,” notes council chair Edmond Truelove, DDS, MSD. “This includes soft tissue changes that may represent lesions associated with cancer and premalignant change.
“If primary care providers in medicine are not encouraged to assess oral tissues for potentially dangerous changes during their annual physical examination appointment with patients,” he adds, “then the role of regular dental assessments becomes an even more important factor for patients at increased risk of oral cancer.”
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