In this treatise oral carcinogenesis is briefy discussed, particularly with regard to the number of cell divisions that is required before cancer reaches a measurable size. At that stage, metastatic spread may have already taken place. Therefore, the term "early diagnosis is somewhat misleading. The delay in diagnosis of oral cancer is caused both by patients' delay and doctors' delay. The total delay, including scheduling delay, work-up delay and treatment planning delay, varies in different studies, but averages some six months. The total delay is more or less evenly distributed between patients' and doctors' delay and is partly due to the unawareness of oral cancer among the public and professionals, and partly to barriers in the health care system that may prevent patients from seeking dental and medical care. Due to the relatively low incidence of oral cancer it will be diffcult to increase the awareness of this cancer type among the public, thereby reducing patients' delay. However, it should be possible to considerably reduce doctors' delay by increasing the awareness of oral cancer among professionals and by improving their diagnostic ability. Population-based annual or semi-annual screening for oral cancer is not cost-effective, high-risk groups such as heavy smokers and drinkers perhaps excluded. Dentists and physicians, and also oral hygienists and nurse practitioners, may play a valuable role in such screening programs.

Diagnostic cancer delay, Early detection of cancer, Oral cancer,
Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van der Waal, I, de Bree, R, Brakenhoff, R, & Coebergh, J.W.W. (2011). Early diagnosis in primary oral cancer: Is it possible?. Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal, 16(3), 300–305. doi:10.4317/medoral.16.e300