• 7/21/2002
  • Maryland
  • Nancy Volkers
  • InteliHealth News Service

Family physicians are aware of the risks for oral cancer, but some don’t ask their patients about risky behaviors and most don’t complete oral exams that could detect early cancer.

Researchers at the federal government’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research surveyed 240 Maryland physicians about their knowledge and practices related to oral cancer. They found that 77 percent of the physicians asked patients questions about their risk factors, but only 24 percent provided oral cancer exams to their patients aged 40 and older. (Most cases of oral cancer are found in people over 40.)

More than 60 percent of the surveyed physicians said they would be interested in a continuing education course on oral cancer. The study was published in the July issue of Oral Oncology.

Oral cancer makes up about 3 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. The two main risk factors are heavy alcohol use and use of tobacco products. More than half of oral cancers are not detected until advanced stages, when a cure is less likely.

Dentists regularly check for signs of oral cancer when they see patients, so regular visits to a dentist can help ensure that oral cancer is caught when it can be treated successfully.

OCF Note: We disagree with the last paragraph of this news article. In our own focus groups of the dental community we have found this to not be the case. OCF Founder and Executive Director Brian Hill has written an editorial appearing in a national dental trade publication this month regarding this same issue. Click here to read the editorial.

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