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Dentists need more training in oral cancer detection

More than 92 percent of Illinois dentists provide oral cancer examinations for their patients, but many are not performing the procedures thoroughly or at optimum intervals, according to a new University of Illinois at Chicago study.

With an incomplete understanding of the nature of pre-malignant lesions and of proper examination techniques, some dentists in Illinois "are not doing all they should be doing to detect oral cancers in their patients," said Charles LeHew of the UIC Cancer Center's Center for Population Health and Health Disparities and the Institute for Health Research and Policy.

More than 500 dentists in 19 Illinois counties responded to the 38-item questionnaire that was used to gauge the extent of their knowledge of oral cancer prevention and early detection. A greater than 60 percent response rate indicated that Illinois dentists "take seriously their important role in addressing the state's oral cancer burden," said LeHew, who was the lead researcher of the study.

According to LeHew, the majority of dentists correctly identified squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of oral cancer, as well as the most common sites for oral cancer and the most-common types of early lesions. Many, however, were not able to answer those questions correctly.

Moreover, dentists lacked knowledge needed for risk assessment and counseling. For example, when asked which of several risk factors is least important, the most frequent answer was age -- which is actually an important factor, LeHew said.

"Some dentists incorrectly identified tobacco or alcohol as the least important risk factor, when in fact they are the two most important," he said.

Two-thirds of the dentists had had oral cancer continuing education; however, 40 percent had trained more than two years prior to the survey. And training in risk counseling was rare, LeHew said. "There is a clear need for additional training and for greater vigi
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Contact: Sam Hostettler
samhos@uic.edu
312-355-2522
University of Illinois at Chicago
29-May-2007


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