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Oral Cancer Screening (PDQ®)

Overview

Note: Separate PDQ summaries on Oral Cancer Prevention and Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment are also available.

Benefits

There is inadequate evidence to establish whether screening would result in a decrease in mortality from oral cancer.

Magnitude of Effect: No evidence of benefit or harm.

  • Study Design: Evidence obtained from one randomized controlled trial.
  • Internal Validity: Poor.
  • Consistency: Not applicable (N/A).
  • External Validity: Poor.

Harms

Harms have not been systematically studied and cannot be quantified based upon the literature. However, there are some unavoidable harms that would be associated with routine screening, including:

  • Detection of cases that are already incurable, leading to increased morbidity.
  • Unnecessary treatment associated with overdiagnosis.
  • Psychologic consequences of false-positive tests.
  • Misdiagnosis due to variability in assessment of biopsies.

Magnitude of Effect: Unknown.

  • Study Design: Observational studies.
  • Internal Validity: Poor.
  • Consistency: N/A.
  • External Validity: Poor.
  • Updated: February 21, 2014