Public awareness of oral cancer and associated risk factors is low

Al-Dakkak, Imad
December 2010
Evidence-Based Dentistry;Dec2010, Vol. 11 Issue 4, p106
Academic Journal
Study designA survey was carried out over a three-year period (2004-2007) in Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres or in patients' homes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. Participants included young patients diagnosed with oral cancer.Data collection and analysisData were collected by interview using a semi-structured interview schedule. The interview transcripts were analysed using a thematic framework and with the aid of NVivo qualitative analysis software (Version 8).ResultsThe majority of the cohort knew that smoking and alcohol could cause oral cancer. None thought it would happen to them, however. Descriptions of symptoms varied widely and several participants used self-treatment modalities provided from a pharmacy. There were various causes of patient delay, and self-treatment was not the only cause. Reinterpretation of symptoms without seeking professional help was not uncommon. None of the patients suspected that they had oral cancer until it was confirmed by their general practitioner (GP) or general dental practitioner (GDP).ConclusionsThe study confirms gaps in understanding and awareness of oral cancer. Most survey participants had heard of oral cancer. However, they did not think their symptoms were indicative of cancer and they self-managed the problem. The culture of not bothering the GP/GDP unless the condition was perceived as serious is a barrier to early diagnosis and treatment. Findings support that further public awareness of oral cancer and its symptoms is required to alert the public that if their symptoms persist beyond three weeks, they need a professional opinion.


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