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New Recommendations on Oral Cancer Screening in Primary Care

Task force issues statement (November 26)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released its final recommendation statement on screening for oral cancer in adults without signs or symptoms of oral cancer who are seen by primary care providers. The recommendation focuses on primary care professionals and is not a recommendation about the practices of specialists, such as dentists and oral health professionals.

Oral cancer is a type of head-and-neck cancer that is found in the mouth and lips. 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. This could be performed by a primary care clinician, dentist, or other dental care professional.

The USPSTF found that there is not enough evidence to make a definitive recommendation for or against screening all adult patients in the primary care setting.

Screening for oral human papillomavirus (HPV) was not considered for this recommendation. However, the USPSTF recognizes that the virus is a growing risk factor for developing oropharyngeal cancer, a type of head-and-neck cancer typically found farther in the back of the mouth and throat that may be difficult to visualize in primary care.

The task force’s final recommendation statement was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine and is available on the group’s website.

Source: USPSTF; November 26, 2013.

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