The British Dental Association (BDA) has published a practical guide to help dental professionals combat the growing problem of oral cancer. It reiterates the importance of the early detection of the condition, stressing the improved chances of patient survival in cases where early diagnosis takes place. The proportion of patients with oral cancer who die is higher than for cervical, breast or prostate cancers, the guide points out. It also warns that some patients are beginning to take legal action against dentists alleging failure to detect the condition.
The BDA guide, Early detection and prevention of oral cancer: a management strategy for dental practice, offers practical advice on preventing, detecting and managing oral cancer. It addresses both the clinical aspects of the condition and the management of relationships with patients. It explains the risk factors for the disease, provides guidance on talking to patients about examinations and offers tips on medical history taking and record keeping. It also explores taboos around the practitioner’s right to explore patients’ lifestyle choices that can cause oral cancer, such as drinking, smoking and chewing tobacco, and offers advice on how to overcome them.
Professor Damien Walmsley, the BDA’s Scientific Adviser, said:
“The magnitude of the problem of oral cancer in the UK is growing. While the treatment of many cancers is leading to an improvement in survival rates, the same cannot be said for oral cancer. Early detection is absolutely vital to addressing this situation.
“General dental practitioners and their teams are ideally placed to lead the fightback, but they face many practical difficulties including patient resistance to practitioners’ advice on lifestyle factors. This publication provides in-depth guidance on overcoming those problems and involving the whole dental team in the effective prevention, detection and treatment of the disease.”