Chime in on Oral Cancer Screening Recommendations

April 15, 2013
Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, OCN, FAAN

USPSTF is inviting comments on screening by primary care professionals.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has found insufficient evidence to recommend whether primary care professionals should perform oral cancer screenings of adult patients. The draft recommendation, which is open for public comment until May 6, 2013, is targeted to primary care patients who do not have any signs or symptoms of oral cancer and does not apply to the practices of dentists or oral health professionals.

The USPSTF states that it’s difficult to detect oral cancer in a population without symptoms of oral cancer, and it is not clear if early detection improves long-term survival. Consequently, the USPSTF issued an “I” (insufficient) level of evidence for oral cancer screening by primary care professionals.

Oral cancer, especially HPV-associated oral cancer, is on the rise so perhaps it is worthwhile to take 30 seconds and look in a patient’s mouth during a primary care visit. Oral cancer screening can easily be incorporated into an oral health assessment. After all, primary care professionals should be looking in the mouths’ of patients to assess for dryness, color of tongue of mucosa, alterations in mucosal integrity, denture fit, etc. Oncology professionals need to chime in on the USPSTF recommendations; public comments will be accepted until May 6, 2013 at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm.