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Eur J Cancer B Oral Oncol. 1992 Jul;28B(1):23-7.

Referral patterns of patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma, Australia.

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne.


Early diagnosis is an important factor affecting the prognosis of patients with oral cancer. Delays in diagnosis have been variously reported as being linked to the patient, the clinician or both. The purpose of this study was to investigate the referral patterns of patients with oral cancer by medical and dental practitioners, in order to assess the delays in diagnosis and to establish the reasons for these delays. 51 consecutive patients diagnosed with oral mucous membrane squamous cell carcinoma were retrospectively reviewed. In this study it was found that over one-third of the patients (38%) delayed seeking professional advice for more than 3 months after first being aware of the lesion. Initial delays in diagnosis of oral cancer was identified in one-third of the cases (17 patients), with antimicrobial medications prescribed and denture adjustments constituting the most frequently administered inappropriate therapy. General medical practitioners were more likely to encounter and refer patients with more advanced (T4) primary oral cancers than their dental colleagues. The findings of this study raise the concern that lack of patient awareness and inappropriate clinical management prevails in a community that should be better informed.

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