New NICE referral guidance for oral cancer: does it risk delay in diagnosis?

Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2017 May;55(4):404-406. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2016.09.022. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


Changes to guidance about the two-week wait referrals for suspected cancer of the head and neck have created a new recommendation for a general medical practitioner to refer any patients to a dentist under certain criteria. The potential effect of this was assessed based on 91 referrals to an oral and maxillofacial unit. A total of 33 met the criteria for initial referral to a dentist; of these, one was later diagnosed with cancer. We outline the potential deleterious effects the new guidance might have on the rapid diagnosis of oral lesions.

Keywords: NICE guidance; Two week wait; head and neck cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Delayed Diagnosis*
  • England
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Retrospective Studies