Background: Oral cancer is most often diagnosed by dentists or dental specialists. We were interested in analyzing demographic and referral data for a cohort of patients referred for the management of oral cancer to our unit.
Methods: A consecutive review of all patients treated by oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre over the last 10 years. Inclusion criteria included those patients with malignant oral and perioral disease that underwent surgical management. Exclusion criteria included those patients who did not have malignant oral disease, who did not have surgical management and those patients who were not treated by our unit as the primary surgeon.
Results: A total of 113 patients were identified. The mean age for presentation for the group was 61.6 years and the male to female ratio was 1.2:1. Approximately 70 per cent of patients were smokers or had smoked in the past. Over the last 10 years there has been a steady increase in referrals to our unit. Over half of all patients referred were from the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne while the majority of the remainder of the referrals were from private oral and maxillofacial surgeons. A significantly increased number of referrals from other sources were identified. Surveillance techniques that can be used in general dental practice are also described.
Conclusions: A high proportion of referrals from dental sources highlights the importance of the dentist and dental specialist in the diagnosis and referral of patients with suspected oral cancer. Patients can either be referred to a dental hospital, private oral and maxillofacial surgeons or directly to a public hospital oral and maxillofacial surgery unit treating oral cancer, such as the one at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre.