Objective: To assess the educational preparedness of medical and dental professionals to reduce the burden of OPC through planning effective cancer control strategies such as reducing tobacco consumption, suggesting healthy lifestyle and diet, and performing early detection through screening examinations and appropriate follow-up.
Methods: Self-reported adequacy of training in oral and pharyngeal cancer (OPC) early intervention activities was compared among 4 health care provider groups in North Carolina. Pretested surveys were mailed to random samples of licensed professionals.
Results: Nearly all providers agreed that early detection improves 5-year survival rates from OPC. Compared with 567 medical providers (273 family physicians and 294 nurse practitioners), 1235 dental providers (584 dentists and 651 hygienists) were significantly less likely to feel adequately trained in tobacco and alcohol cessation and to palpate neck nodes, but were significantly more likely to feel adequately trained to perform oral cancer examinations. Among dental providers, those who felt they had adequate training in tobacco and alcohol cessation were significantly more likely to assess these risk factors on patient medical histories.
Conclusions: Education is needed to prepare dental providers to undertake OPC prevention activities, whereas medical providers would benefit from enhanced oral examination skills to improve their performance in early detection.