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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 56

Delay in oral cancer diagnosis: Who is to blame and are we doing enough?

Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication18-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
Ibrahim E EL-Hakim
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1658-6816.174339

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How to cite this article:
EL-Hakim IE. Delay in oral cancer diagnosis: Who is to blame and are we doing enough?. Saudi J Oral Sci 2016;3:56

How to cite this URL:
EL-Hakim IE. Delay in oral cancer diagnosis: Who is to blame and are we doing enough?. Saudi J Oral Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Aug 15];3:56. Available from: https://www.saudijos.org/text.asp?2016/3/1/56/174339


Oral cancer has the lowest 5-year survival rate among the major types of cancers including breast, prostate, and urinary bladder cancers. Although oral cancer can be easily detected as it is accessible for examination, diagnosis may be delayed until the lesion reaches an advanced stage. [1] Sixty percent of cancers are diagnosed late (stages III or IV), with patient survival rates ranging from 10% to 40% after 5 years. [2],[3] Yu [4] reported that a delay in the diagnosis of oral cancer is linked to factors related to patients as well as primary health service providers, especially when patients are considered to be at low risk (such as nonsmokers or alcoholic) or through the failure to record the patient's symptoms such as pain or malaise. Patients' delay was defined as the time from the onset of symptoms to the initial visit to the medical professional (this was reported to be 9 months) while professional delay was defined as the time during which the patient was under professional care until the final diagnosis of malignancy was confirmed histologically (this was reported to be around 8 months) and the "total delay" was the sum of patient and professional delays. [1],[5],[6]

Health professionals, mainly general dentists and general medical practitioners, did not take into account oral cancer as a differential diagnosis and usually prescribed analgesics or antibiotics or advised the patient on taking no treatment or follow-up as these were necessary; therefore, the delay in the diagnosis and treatment increased the stage of tumor at the time of diagnosis. [4],[7] There is much to be done regarding the early detection of oral cancer to reduce the professional delay. The continuing educational courses focusing on how to diagnose head and neck cancers early and emphasizing the appropriate methods of examination of oral cavity in low-risk and high-risk patients may contribute to the early diagnosis and subsequent improvement in survival rate. Also, teaching patients how to perform self-examination of the different parts of the oral cavity such as the tongue and oral mucosa as well as early reporting to a professional clinic to deal with cancer as early as possible are mandatory.

  References Top

Jafari A, Najafi SH, Moradi F, Kharazifard MJ, Khami MR. Delay in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer. J Dent (Shiraz) 2013;14:146-50.  Back to cited text no. 1
Hollows P, McAndrew PG, Perini MG. Delays in the referral and treatment of oral squamous cell carcinoma. Br Dent J 2000;188:262-5.   Back to cited text no. 2
Onizawa K, Nishihara K, Yamagata K, Yusa H, Yanagawa T, Yoshida H. Factors associated with diagnostic delay of oral squamous cell carcinoma. Oral Onco 2003;39:781-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Yu T, Wood RE, Tenenbaum HC. Delays in diagnosis of head and neck cancers. J Can Dent Assoc 2008;74:61.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kerdpon D, Sriplung H. Factors related to delay in diagnosis of oral squamous cell carcinoma in southern Thailand. Oral Oncol 2001;37: 127-31.  Back to cited text no. 5
Bruun JP. Time lapse by diagnosis of oral cancer. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1976;42:139-49.  Back to cited text no. 6
Esmaelbeigi F, Hadji M, Harirchi I, Omranipour R, vand Rajabpour M, Zendehdel K. Factors affecting professional delay in diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer in Iran. Arch Iran Med 2014;17:253-7.  Back to cited text no. 7

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