We assessed the oral cancer (OC) knowledge, including risk factors and clinical symptoms, among patients attending dental departments within Italian university hospitals. Two thousand and two hundred questionnaires were sent to four hospitals in order to assess patients' knowledge regarding clinical and epidemiological aspects of OC; OC knowledge was evaluated overall and stratified by oral cancer family history. Participants frequently identified cigarette smoking (87.8%) and heavy alcohol consumption (58.6%) as a risk factor for oral cancer, knew the clinical signs of OC (65-79% depending on the specific symptom) and reported that early detection was related to better prognosis of oral cancer (94%). Individuals with a positive family history for oral cancer were significantly more likely to identify risk factors for oral cancer correctly yet family history of OC did not affect smoking status. Less than 15% of patients reported having received OC counseling by a dentist or physician.
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