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Br Dent J. 2003 Sep 13;195(5):277-81; discussion 263.

The role of primary healthcare professionals in oral cancer prevention and detection.

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University of Glasgow Dental School, 378 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JZ, Scotland, UK.



To investigate current knowledge, examination habits and preventive practices of primary healthcare professionals in Scotland, with respect to oral cancer, and to determine any relevant training needs.


Primary care.


Questionnaires were sent to a random sample of 357 general medical practitioners (GMPs) and 331 dental practitioners throughout Scotland. Additionally, focus group research and interviews were conducted amongst primary healthcare team members.


Whilst 58% of dental respondents reported examining regularly for signs of oral cancer, GMPs examined patients' mouths usually in response to a complaint of soreness. The majority of GMPs (85%) and dentists (63%) indicated that they felt less than confident in detecting oral cancer, with over 70% of GMPs identifying lack of training as an important barrier. Many practitioners were unclear concerning the relative importance of the presence of potentially malignant lesions in the oral cavity. A high proportion of the GMPs indicated that they should have a major role to play in oral cancer detection (66%) but many felt strongly that this should be primarily the remit of the dental team.


The study revealed a need for continuing education programmes for primary care practitioners in oral cancer-related activities. This should aim to improve diagnostic skills and seek to increase practitioners' participation in preventive activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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