The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released its final recommendation regarding screening for oral cancer. The task force issued an “I” statement, which means there is not enough evidence to make a definitive recommendation for or against screening. The recommendation was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Screening refers to looking for cancer when no symptoms are present. Dr. Swauger says that the primary screening test for oral cancer is to look inside and feel a patient’s mouth, face, and neck for potentially cancerous lesions, lumps, or other abnormalities. Primary care physicians, dentists, and other dental care professionals can perform the screening test.
The USPSTF recommendation focuses on primary care professionals and is not a recommendation about the practices of specialists, such as dentists and oral health professionals. The group found that there is not enough evidence to recommend whether primary care professionals should perform oral cancer screenings on all of their adult patients—hence, the “I” statement, which recommends neither for nor against.
Oral cancer is a subtype of head and neck cancer and refers to cancerous tissue growth in the oral cavity. Individuals can reduce their risk of oral cancer by avoiding tobacco products and limiting their alcohol intake. The USPSTF recommendation applies only to asymptomatic screening by primary care professionals. Individuals with lumps, bumps, or lesions in their mouths or on their lips should have them examined by a physician.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Oral Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. Published online November 26, 2013. doi:10.7326/M13-2568
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