Oral cancer training to avoid litigation

The British Dental Association (BDA) is hosting a new training event designed to help dentists detect signs of oral pre-cancer and cancer.

It is hoped the event will save patients’ lives that might otherwise be needlessly lost and, by doing so, prevent dentists from being swept up in the growing wave of legal cases being brought against practitioners whose symptoms have been missed.

The one-day course, which has been developed with the whole dental team in mind, will be led by renowned clinical experts Saman Warnakulasuriya and Richard Cook.

Saman Warnakulasuriya is Professor of Oral Medicine at King’s College London and is the director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Oral Cancer and Pre-cancer in the UK. Richard Cook is Senior Lecturer in Oral Medicine at King’s College London and on the GDC’s specialist listings for oral medicine and surgery.

The course will run for the first time on Friday 25 November, during Mouth Cancer Action Month 2011, with another event planned for 29 June 2012.

It will take place at the BDA’s Wimpole Street headquarters in London. It will help dentists by defining the dental team’s duty of care to patients and offering information and advice on how to detect both oral pre-cancer and cancer effectively and sensitively.

Delegates will be taught how to carry out a thorough soft tissue and neck examination and will be given advice on how to identify patients at increased risk, as well as top tips on how to raise the subject with patients. Prevention will be discussed with reference to risk management and referral guidelines for patients suspected of having signs and symptoms of oral malignancies.

Oral cancer remains one of the most debilitating and disfiguring of all malignancies for those who survive. It presents the whole dental team with important obligations, challenges and a real opportunity to save a life. This includes consideration of dento-legal issues: emerging case law has established the dentist’s duty of care to examine the whole mouth, including oral soft tissues.

Professor Warnakulasuriya, said: ‘In the last decade the number of cases of oral cancer across the UK has increased by 40%.

‘Having a well-planned, integrated opportunistic oral cancer screening programme in your practice can help to combat this worrying trend as early detection and appropriate referral can improve a patient’s chances of survival from 50% to 80%, and just as importantly, their quality of life. It also complies with best practice and indeed our obligations and responsibilities to our patients.

‘This course provides the dental team with an opportunity to clarify their role in the, prevention, detection and management of this lethal disease.’

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