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The challenge of the approach to oral cancer in primary health care

O desafio da abordagem do câncer de boca na atenção primária em saúde

Luiz Roberto Augusto Noro Jordânia Rodrigues Landim Mychele Cavalcante de Andrade Martins Yuliana Castro Ponciano Lima About the authors

Abstract

The aim of this study was to understand the performance of dentists in public health about mouth cancer. A cross-sectional study was performed whit 121 dentists from Fortaleza Health Department, interviewed through a semi-structured questionnaire. The study did not identify statistically significant difference regarding the ability to perform biopsy by gender, year of graduation, expertise or time of public service. Only 22 professionals (18.2%) reported being able to perform biopsies and 13 (10.7%) would do so at the Family Health Unit. The reference and counter-reference system, by including another stage in patient care, increase the possibility of absenteeism from patient to health service. Although clearly identify the relevance of oral cancer mortality in the population, the vast majority of dentists is not equipped to perform the biopsy as a routine activity. Whereas the vast majority of biopsies of the oral tissues is performed as an outpatient, low technological complexity to perform the procedure and the effectiveness of biopsy in the early diagnosis of oral cancer, it is essential to hold this procedure in primary care, what can effectively contribute to decreasing mortality from oral cancer.

Mouth neoplasms; Oral health; Basic health services

Resumo

O objetivo do presente estudo foi analisar a atuação dos cirurgiões-dentistas da rede pública de saúde frente ao câncer de boca. Foi realizado estudo transversal no qual foram entrevistados 121 dentistas a partir de questionário semiestruturado. O estudo não identificou diferença estatisticamente significativa em relação à capacidade de realizar biópsia por sexo, ano de graduação, especialização ou tempo de serviço público. Apenas 22 profissionais (18,2%) relataram ser capazes de realizar biópsias, e 13 (10,7%) poderiam fazê-la na Unidade de Saúde da Família. O sistema de referência e contrarreferência, por meio da inclusão de mais de uma etapa na assistência, aumenta a possibilidade de absenteísmo do paciente ao serviço de saúde. Embora identifique claramente a relevância da mortalidade do câncer bucal na população, a grande maioria dos dentistas não está preparada para realizar a biópsia como uma atividade de rotina. Considerando que a grande maioria das biópsias dos tecidos orais é realizada em ambulatório, a baixa complexidade tecnológica para realizar o procedimento e sua eficácia para o diagnóstico precoce do câncer de boca, é essencial a realização deste procedimento na atenção primária, o que pode efetivamente contribuir para a diminuição da mortalidade por câncer oral.

Neoplasias bucais; Saúde bucal; Serviços básicos de saúde

Introduction

Primary Health Care is essential for the organization of the Unified Health System (SUS) element in guiding policies to meet the demands and needs to access the network services11. Silva KL, Sena RR. Comprehensive health care: indications from the training of nurses. Rev Esc Enferm USP 2008; 42(1):48-56., with its principles and assumptions in the National Politics of Buccal Health (Brasil Sorridente)22. Pucca Júnior GA. The national politics of buccal health as social demand. Cien Saude Colet 2006; 11(1):243-246.. The incorporation of oral health team in the Family Health Strategy aimed to increase access to health promotion, procedures for the prevention of oral disease and their respective treatment33. Baldani MH, Almeida ES, Antunes JLF. Equity and provision of public dental services in the State of Paraná, Southern Brazil. Rev. Saude Publica 2009; 43(3):46-54..

It is crucial to signalize the advances provided by National Curriculum Guidelines for Dentistry courses44. Brasil. Conselho Nacional de Educação. Câmara de Educação Superior. Resolução CNE/CES 3, de 19 de fevereiro de 2002. Institui Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais do curso de graduação em Odontologia. Diário Oficial da União 2002; 20 fev.. to educate dentists to develop specific skills, the ability to identify patients and population groups with oral diseases and disorders, appropriate conduct to research, prevention, treatment and control within the Unified Health System (SUS).

To achieve this goal, according to Villalba et al.55. Villalba JP, Madureira PR, Barros NF. Professional profile of dentist for practice at Brazilian National Health System. Rev Inst Ciênc Saúde 2009; 27(3):262-268., professionals with a broadened view of health are needed; able to understand individuals, families, and communities in a systematic and comprehensive manner, consistent with the reality of municipal health systems, developing and evaluating oral health actions consistent to community needs.

Within these areas of expertise of the dentist, oral cancer occupies a prominent position, since is the seventh neoplasm that most affects the Brazilian population66. Brasil. Instituto Nacional de Câncer (INCA). Incidência de câncer no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: INCA; 2008.. Estimates for 2014 point to 15.290 new cases of oral cancer in Brazil and may occupy the fifth place among the highest incidence of malignant neoplasms in men77. Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva (INCA). Coordenação de Prevenção e Vigilância. Estimativa 2014: Incidência de Câncer no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: INCA; 2014.. However, the prevention of oral cancer has a large inertia as the risk factors of the disease follow the patients for many years, even before any signs appear. For prevention effectiveness, it must be based on health promotion and professionals should be made aware of their importance to envisage the disease88. Patton LL, Elter JR, Southerland JH, Strauss RP. Knowledge of oral cancer risk factors and diagnostic concepts among North Carolina dentists: implications for diagnosis and referral. J Am Dent Assoc 2005; 136:602-610..

The visual examination of the mouth for early detection of precancerous lesions and non-symptomatic tumors is an intuitive and attractive secondary prevention strategy, from which it is expected to enable the diagnosis of the disease in its initial stages99. Antunes JLF, Toporcov TN, Wunch Filho V. The effectiveness of the oral cancer prevention and early diagnosis program in São Paulo, Brazil. Rev. Panam Salud Publica 2007; 21(1):30-36.. The special ease of access to oral lesions has been a critical issue in discussions about early diagnosis. Empirically, the biggest obstacle seems to be the identification of precursor lesions, which implies the need for greater investment by health professionals to identify these injuries and take the correct course of action1010. Fontes KBFC, Milagres A, Piragibe MMM, Silva LE, Dias EP. Contribution of cytopathology to the diagnosis of oral squamous cells carcinoma. J. Bras. Patol. Med. Lab 2008; 44(1):17-24.. The prognosis of oral cancer diagnosed and treated in its early stage is very satisfactory since 80% of the patients achieve a survival rate of five years after treatment due to less aggressive and complex interventions1111. Mehrotra R, Gupta A, Singh M, Ibrahim R. Application of cytology and molecular biology in diagnosing premalignant or malignant oral lesions. Molecular Cancer 2006; 5:11..

The biopsy is a major mechanism of identification of oral cancer in its early stages, being recommended by the Ministry of Health1212. Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Manual de Especialidades em Saúde Bucal. Brasília: MS; 2008. and accomplished by its own Basic Health Care, along with other complimentary examinations. It breaks the assumption that the initial neoplastic changes are easily detectable and primary care will need the closest monitoring of the patient, avoiding a late diagnosis and mutilating treatment, as observed in the current reality1313. Gomez I, Warnakulasuriya S, Varela-Centelles PI, Lopez-Jornet P, Suarez-Cunqueiro M, Diz-Dios P, Seoane J. Is early diagnosis of oral cancer a feasible objective? Who is to blame for diagnostic delay? Oral Dis 2010; 16(4):333-342..

The interest of this study occurred in order to identify the development of technical protocol for active surveillance and early diagnosis of oral cancer directed to high-risk biological social groups by the Municipal Health Department of Fortaleza (Ceará-Brasil)1414. Chagas RA, Nuto SAS, Andrade LOM. Municipal policy of oral health: from the collective construction to the challenge of development in Fortaleza (CE). Divulgação em Saúde para debate 2008; 42:35-50.. This study focused on understanding the role of dentists inserted in Primary Care in Fortaleza - Ceará against oral cancer, considering their knowledge and willingness to intervene on early diagnosis and biopsy in Family Health Units.

Methods

This study is characterized as transversal, as the factor under study and the effect were measured at the same time; and the description of the problem was made even without intervention. It is also an analytical study, which sought to relate the dependent variables with independent, seeking explanation for the observed phenomena.

The sample size calculation assumed a population of 238 dentists crowded in 87 Family Health Units in Fortaleza-Ceará, in 2008, with a minimum percentage of 10%, sampling error of 5%, and a confidence level of 99.9%.

For composition of the study sample, all units of the Family Health were preliminarily listed and grouped by Regional Executive Secretary to ensure proportional participation of all regions in Fortaleza. Inclusion criteria for definition of dentists in the sample involved formal employment with the Municipal Health Department of Fortaleza and providing clinical care in the Family Health Units, during the year preceding data collection. The exclusion criteria related to the time since graduation lower than 3 years and a period longer than six months off work during the last year.

In a second stage, dentists were grouped in each Family Health Unit according to the period in which they worked (morning or afternoon). In a third stage, the dentists were listed in alphabetical order, which was constituted as the final link to draw participants. Considering the sample size necessary, the first element of the sample was selected to attend, and from there plus the constant (k = 2.0) by means of an electronic spreadsheet, therefore a systematic random sample. This strategy allowed the participation of almost all the Family Health Units of the municipality. From this procedure, 121 dentists who composed the final study sample were identified, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Distribution of the sample according to total number of dentists and number of Family Health Units (USF) by Regional Executive Secretary (SER), Municipal Health Secretariat (SMS), Fortaleza-CE, Brazil, 2008.

As a preliminary stage of the research, a pilot study was conducted with ten dentists, in order to assess the clarity and objectivity of the questions. It is noteworthy that these professionals were not included in the final sample. At the end of the pilot study, a printed questionnaire was administered with the aim of raising the professionals’ opinion about the quality and appropriateness of the research instrument. Because of this, two issues were improved, contributing to greater clarity in relation to the object of study.

To invite participants, the researchers made contact through phone calls to Family Health Units, briefly explaining the project objectives and scheduling the interview directly with the research subject. They headed to the Family Health Unit from the time the dentist confirmed the appointment. Despite this mechanism, sometimes the dentist could not be interviewed at that time, for various reasons. To ensure the participation of all components of the sample, the researchers settled on a three return limit to the Family Health Unit for collecting the information. This approach associated with the prior contact let there be no loss in the total sample provided.

Data collection occurred through a semi-structured questionnaire as an interview, being filled in by the researchers from the responses of dentists.

The researchers went to all Family Health Units, for three months, carrying the questionnaire and two copies of the free and informed consent for each interview. The research project was submitted to the University of Fortaleza Research Ethics Committee and approved.

The data collected in the field were double entered and processed using Epi Info version 6.04. For data processing and statistical analysis, the SPSS for Windows software, version 17.0, was used to perform chi square test.

The dependent variables of the study are the attitudes of dentists regarding oral cancer (participation in educational activities about oral cancer, suspicion of potentially cancerous lesions in Family Health Units, appropriateness of biopsy, biopsies done in Family Health Units, and intervention conforming to lesion complexity), and the independent variables are related to the profile of the respondents, in particular, gender, time since graduation, specialty (lato sensu courses), and time in public service.

Results

From the total interviewed, 87 (71.9%) were female, and 25.8% were up to 5 years since graduation, 46.7% of five to ten years since graduation, while 27.5% had more than 10 years since graduation. Regarding time in public service, 62 (51.2%) was admitted in the last five years, while 59 (48.8%) had been doing so for over five years. The vast majority (91.7%) of the total is less than five years at Family Health Unit where it was crowded at the time of interview.

It was observed that 98 dentists (81%) attended a lato sensu course, being 61 (62.2%) performed in the area of Public Health.

Of the total of dentists surveyed, 93.4% reported participation in educational activities related to mouth cancer promoted by the Fortaleza Municipal Health Department.

Regarding the suspicion of potentially cancerous lesions, 94 dentists (77.7%) had already experienced this occurrence in the Family Health Unit in which they were currently crowded. In the univariate analysis there was no statistically significant difference regarding the suspicion of second potentially cancerous lesions for gender, time since graduation, time and expertise of public service, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1
Suspected diagnosis of cancer malignancy by gender, year of graduation, how long in public service and specialty of dentists, Fortaleza-CE, Brazil, 2008.

However, despite the occurrence of potentially cancerous lesions in the Family Health Units, only 52 professionals (43%) reported being able to perform biopsies, and of these, 30 (57%) depending on the complexity of the lesion. These findings have not identified a statistically significant difference in relation to ability to perform biopsy according to gender, time since graduation, time and expertise of public service, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2
Ability to biopsy by gender, year of graduation, how long in public service and specialty of dentists, Fortaleza-CE, Brazil, 2008.

Of the 30 respondents who consider themselves capable of performing a biopsy depending on the complexity, only 13 dentists (43%) routinely would perform at the Health Unit, where most of the population seeks care. One should also stress that of those who report a biopsy at the Health Unit, only 4 (31%) professionals perform in any situation, according to data provided in Table 3. I.e. of the total surveyed professionals (121), only 10.7% routinely would perform biopsies, while only 3.3% would perform at the Family Health Unit in any situation.

Table 3
Biopsy perform by complexity of the injury and its realization at the Center for Family Health (CSF), Fortaleza-CE, Brazil, 2008.

Discussion

Tracing the profile of dentists working in the units of the Family Health Department of Fortaleza, we could observe that the majority is female, have up to 10 years after graduation and up to 10 years of entering the public service (with less than 5 years at the Family Health Unit at the time of the survey) and attended at least one specialization course after graduation, with a significant part in the area of Public Health.

The limited time and relatively recent entry into the public service could bring benefits to the health service if the training of dentists were effectively linked to the Health System, as recommended in the National Curriculum Guidelines for Dentistry courses44. Brasil. Conselho Nacional de Educação. Câmara de Educação Superior. Resolução CNE/CES 3, de 19 de fevereiro de 2002. Institui Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais do curso de graduação em Odontologia. Diário Oficial da União 2002; 20 fev.. Another important signal in this study corroborates that for the fact that most dentists have developed specialization in Public Health, this could make more effective the Unified Health System. However, the results of this study did not identify statistically significant difference regarding the suspicion of second potentially cancerous lesions and ability to perform biopsy by gender, year since graduation, expertise or time of public service. Because of this, the results do not depend from these variables, so the conclusions of this study can be generalized within the analyzed aspects.

From this analysis, constitutes as a major challenge for the educational system to encourage professionals about the proposed professional development activities with prospective health actions with reference to the universality and comprehensiveness, recommended by public health system, and enabling professional involvement to it to assume its responsibilities in an effective and committed manner.

The assignments of oral health professionals of the Family Health Program, particularly by dentists, are provided for in Ordinance 267 of 06 March 20011515. Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Gabinete do Ministro. Portaria nº 267, de 6 de março de 2001. Diário Oficial da União 2001; 7 mar.. Such requirements should be part of routine knowledge of the professionals working in the public service. When asked about the knowledge of such tasks as conducting clinical examinations, and coordinating public health actions aimed at promotion and prevention in oral health, the majority of respondents reported that they knew them, and showed interest in updating laws which govern the profession.

The dentist, by working on the oral, and maxillofacial complex and having training that includes propaedeutics, should be the professional closest to the reality of the prevention of oral cancer through early diagnosis and counseling about risk factors and self-examinations1616. Horowitz AM, Drury TF, Goodman HS, Yellowitz JA. Oral pharyngeal cancer prevention and early detection: dentists’ opinions and practices. J Am Dent Assoc 2000; 131(4):453-462.,1717. Matos IB, Araújo LA. Academic practices, the dentist, the population and oral cancer. Revista da ABENO 2003; 3(1):76-81.. LeHew & Kaste1818. LeHew CH, Kaste LM. Oral Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Knowledge and Practices of Illinois Dentists - A Brief Communication. J Public Health Dent 2007; 67(2):89-93. indicated that 92% of 518 dentists surveyed in Illinois reported performing oral examinations for cancer detection, however, most do not realize it properly or at frequent intervals. In this study, 77.7% of respondents reported having identified patients with suspicious lesions in the Family Health Units. The main initiatives to be taken by the dentist for early diagnosis of malignant neoplasms is conducting intra-oral and extra-oral examinations (biopsy included therein) and educate the public about the disease1919. Silverman Junior S, Rankin KV. Oral and pharyngeal cancer control through continuing education. J Cancer Educ 2010; 25(3):277-278.,2020. Chang SW, Abdul-Kareem S, Merican AF, Zain RB. Oral cancer prognosis based on clinicopathologic and genomic markers using a hybrid of feature selection and machine learning methods. BMC Bioinformatics 2013; 14:170.. However, of the professionals interviewed, only 43% consider themselves capable of performing a biopsy, depending on complexity. In a more severe form, Ergun et al.2121. Ergun S, Ozel S, Koray M, E. Kurklu GA,Tanyeri H: Dentists’ knowledge and opinions about oral mucosal lesions. Int. J. Oral Maxillofac. Surg. 2009; 38:1283-1288. in a study of dentists in the private sector, at the University of polyclinics in Istanbul, indicated that 93% of respondents did not perform biopsies. When the analysis in the present study extends to the Family Health Units, an even more worrying attitude was found: only 13 (10.7%) professionals actually performed this procedure. This finding may have some explanations: either there isn’t adequate physical framework for this examination, or even this can be performed on an outpatient basis without the need for major surgical apparatus; or there is an omission on the part of dentists who seek to exclude themselves from their duties and embarrassing attitude to tell their patients that it has a high mortality rate; or is there a preference for referring patients to reference centers.

In the view of Angelim-Dias and Sampaio2222. Angelim-Dias AA, Sampaio JJC. Mouth cancer in Brazil and Ceará: epidemiological information. Sustentação 2003; 4(10):33-38. Ceará has no health practices that address the full complexity of diagnosis and treatment. Consolidated by the interviews, we observed that the Municipal Health Department promotes specific actions aimed at upgrading professionals and disease prevention. The vast majority of respondents reported having participated in at least one of these activities. Improving the level of knowledge and the application of measures by dentists becomes very important for public health in reducing the mortality and morbidity for oral cancer2323. Colella G, Gaeta MG, Moscariello A, Angielillo IF. Oral cancer and dentists: Knowledge, attitudes and practices in Italy. Oral Oncology 2008; 44(4):393-399..

Of the surveyed participants who had expertise in public health, a field of knowledge and practice about the process health/disease2424. Barata RB. Postgraduate programs and the field of Public Health. Physis 2008; 18(2):189-214., only one reported that had never participated in such actions. Dentistry courses should provide further instructions on promotion, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of an assisted community.

Andrade et al.2525. Andrade SN, Soares JMA, Chaves ALF. Oral cancer: assessment of knowledge and conduct of dentists in primary health care. Rev. bras. odontol. 2014; 71(1):42-47. indicate that only 13% of the dentists covered in their study had received training about oral cancer in graduation, remaining a unsatisfactory knowledge, signalizing to the need for continuing education with aim of training dentists for early oral cancer diagnosis.

Cannick et al.2626. Cannick GF, Horowitz AM, Drury TF, Reed SG, Day TA. Assessing oral cancer knowledge among dental students in South Carolina. J Am Dent Assoc 2005; 136(3):373-378. indicate the need for a broader approach to prevention and early diagnosis of oral cancer during graduation. With this measure, patients certainly would have potential for contribution to increasing their survival.

Dentists, because of the design of the traditional guidelines of vocational training, tend to focus more on healing practices and are often not adequately prepared in their training for satisfactory preventive work, thereby causing erroneous attitudes of early lesions of oral cancer to the initial recognition of malignant lesions, as well as biopsies, thus losing the opportunity of a less radical treatment and a wider cure potentiality. According Wade et al.2727. Wade J, Smith H, Hankins M, Llewellyn C. Conducting oral examinations for cancer in general practice: what are the barriers? Fam Pract 2010; 27(1):77-84. it would be one of the main initiatives that allows dentists to act decisively as the main health care provider for early diagnosis of oral cancer. Corroborating this perspective, Hertrampf et al.2828. Hertrampf K, Wenz HJ, Koller M, Springer I, Jargot A, Wiltfang J. Assessing dentists’ knowledge about oral cancer: Translation and linguistic validation of a standardized questionnaire from American English into German. Oral Oncology 2009; 45(10):877-882. indicate that little attention has been given to educate the population about the symptoms and risk factors of oral cancer, as well as the possibilities and benefits of an oral examination.

In a study by Patton et al.88. Patton LL, Elter JR, Southerland JH, Strauss RP. Knowledge of oral cancer risk factors and diagnostic concepts among North Carolina dentists: implications for diagnosis and referral. J Am Dent Assoc 2005; 136:602-610., it was observed that dentists with greater knowledge about the risk factors and early diagnosis procedures are significantly more likely to identify precancerous lesions and refer or take biopsies. Such a situation should refer to the health service an even greater concern with health education activities and other preventive measures since, according to Horowitz et al.2929. Horowitz AM, Canto MT, Child WL. Maryland adults’ perspectives on oral cancer prevention and early detection. J Am Dent Assoc 2002; 133(8):1058-1063., early diagnosis is essential for individuals at high risk of the disease.

Although there is a Health Municipal Department program that focuses the disease, further refinement in Fortaleza is still needed, as well as a routine periodic dental examinations and, above all, public information, for truly effective means. A system of reference and counter- reference that meets the needs of the service in all its complexity is of utmost importance. Fortaleza has three Specialized Dental Care Centers which develop diagnostic services of oral cancer3030. Fortaleza. Prefeitura Municipal. Secretaria Municipal de Saúde. CEO. [acessado 2014 dez 1]. Disponível em: http://www.fortaleza.ce.gov.br/sms/ceo.
http://www.fortaleza.ce.gov.br/sms/ceo...
and the guidelines of Fortaleza Municipal Oral Health Policy (2010-2013)3131. Fortaleza. Diretrizes da Política Municipal de Saúde Bucal 2010-2013. [acessado 2014 jun 12]. http://www.cro-ce.org.br/diretrizes.pdf
http://www.cro-ce.org.br/diretrizes.pdf...
signalizes the importance of motivate the active pursuit of mouth cancer effecting actions of prevention and early diagnosis for social groups of higher social biohazard, continuing the permanent education processes for health professionals in the early diagnosis of oral cancer and ensuring Suplies to carry out biopsies in Basic Health Care.

In a recent study of Mendes Junior et al.3232. Mendes Júnior, FIR, Bandeira MAM, Tajra FS. Perception by professional on the relevance of the oral health indicators in a mestropolis of the Brazilian northeastern. Saúde debate 2015; 39(104):147-158 is possible to observe the mobilization regarding the approach to oral cancer in Fortaleza, when is identified the record of 3,143 diagnoses of oral mucosal changes in the year 2012, through routine oral exams in the Family Health Units and in prevention campaigns. However, the authors identify as the greatest difficulties for the dentist approach to oral cancer, insecurity in the clinical management in addition to the demand of services by traditional clinical activities.

Studies indicate the difficulties in the management of secondary health care, particularly with problems to fill the instruments to reference to specialized dental care center, appropriate educational guidance to the patient, difficulties related to the forgetting of the schedule, other appointments (work, meetings, classes etc.), inadequate time and distance with respect to the Health Unit3333. Almeida GL, Garcia LFR, Almeida TL, Bittar TO, Pereira AC. Study of the socioeconomic profile of pacients and the reasons that took them to lack in dental consultations in the strategy of family health in a district of Ribeirao Preto/SP. Cienc Odontol Bras 2009; 12 (1):77-86.

34. Vazquez FL, Guerra LM, Vítor ES, Ambrosano GMB, Mialhe FL, Meneghim MC, Pereira AC. Referencing and counter-referencing in specialized dental health procedures in Campinas in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Cien Saude Colet 2014; 19(1):245-255.
-3535. Lombardo EM, Cunha AR, Carrard VC, Bavaresco CS. Delayed referrals of oral cancer patients: the perception of dental surgeons. Cien Saude Colet 2014; 19(4):1223-1232 .. In a study of 613 specialized dental care centers, Goes et al.3636. Goes PSA, Figueiredo N, Neves JC, Silveira FMM, Costa JFR, Pucca Júnior GA, Rosales MS. Evaluation of secondary care in oral health: a study of specialty clinics in Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 2012; 28(Supl.):s81-s89 . indicated that, by measuring the overall achievement of targets, most regions showed inadequate performance of specialized dental care centers. It is worth emphasizing the Ministry of Health recommends to the Family Health Strategy the routing to reference services at most 20% of clinical care3737. Azevedo ALM, Cota AM. The narrow entrance door of Brazil’s National Health System (SUS): an evaluation of accessibility in the Family Health Strategy. Interface (Botucatu) 2010; 14(35):797-810.. This approach sets the key role of primary care in making the biopsy, in addition to self-examination guidance, leaving the secondary care situations that require more complex interventions and subsequent reference for hospital service. Therefore, it is a reflection on the responsibility of the dentist’s primary care procedures both in health promotion, the prevention of oral cancer, either through educational guidance on self-examination and risk factors, or either from the realization of biopsies on an outpatient basis as effective mechanisms for early diagnosis, as signaled by Silverman3838. Silverman S. Controlling oral and pharyngeal cancer: can dental professionals make a difference? J Am Dent Assoc 2005; 136(5):576-577..

Regarding educational guidelines, the proper initiatives of the Municipal Health Department of Fortaleza point to a professional for guidance. Also important is the involvement of public health laboratories for analysis of biopsies, the redefinition of the role of specialized dental clinics in coordinating actions and ensuring access of the most complex cases in specialized hospital units.

With all this evidence, the position of Torres-Pereira et al.3939. Torres-Pereira CC, Angelim-Dias A, Melo NS, Lemos Junior CA, Oliveira EMF. Strategies for management of oral cancer in primary and secondary healthcare services Cad Saude Publica 2012; 28(Supl.):530-539. of emphasizing that despite the scientific advances about mouth cancer, it is clear that the disease remains a major public health problem, with few effective actions in reducing their incidence indicators and mortality almost all over the world. Thus, we agree with studies that address the need for public policies widely involving governments, managers, health professionals, and the population itself in the conquest of actions that contribute to the actual prevention of oral cancer4040. Almeida FCS, Silva DP, Amoroso MA, Brito e Dias R, Crivello Júnior O, Araújo ME. Popularization of oral self-examination: an example of non-formal education - Part II Cien Saude Colet 2011; 16(Supl. 1):1589-1598.,4141. Bulgareli JV, Diniz OCCF, Faria ET, Vazquez FL, Cortellazzi KL, Pereira AC. Prevention and detection of oral cancer: participatory planning as a strategy to broaden coverage in the elderly population Cien Saude Colet 2013; 18(12):3461-3473.. For this, a discussion regarding changing the care model and training consistent with this new model and new patterns of work sponsored by the Health Strategy are crucial4242. Martelli PJL, Macedo CLSV, Medeiros KR, Silva SF, Cabra APS, Pimentel FC, Monteiro IS. Surgeon dentist’s profile inserted in the Strategy of Family Health in cities in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Cien Saude Colet 2010; 15(Supl. 2):3243-3248.. Despite the significant increase in the number of Oral Health Teams (ESB), especially in relation to population coverage and increased access to dental services, it is still possible to identify great difficulty in modifying the currently existing health care model4343. Pedrazzi V, Dias KRHC, Mello RS. Oral health in Brazil - Part II: dental specialty centers (CEOs). Braz Oral Res 2008; 22(Spec Iss 1):18-23..

Regarding the health sector, more investment in training of health professionals from primary care to biopsies as could be observed in this study, in addition to intersectoral and multidisciplinary actions are necessary.

Conclusion

With regard to oral cancer, the dentist inserted in primary care in Fortaleza-CE is able to carry out health education activities (in particular the guidance on self-examination) and early diagnosis, by identifying oral lesions, which are forwarded to the dental specialty centers (CEO). Although clearly identify the relevance of oral cancer mortality in the population, the vast majority of dentists is not equipped to perform the biopsy as a routine activity in the Family Health Units. This type of intervention in primary care may allow a greater understanding of the population about the problem as well as enhance the role of the dentist as responsible for the decline in mortality rates for oral cancer, specific area of performance of this professional. Possibly the prioritization of actions related to tooth decay, still central in shaping the dentist and prioritized in dental care in primary care, occupy most of the dentist’s working time, leading him to disregard their role as the protagonist of actions beyond this pathology. The patients usually sought professional medical help, rather than dental help when a lesion in the mouth appeared, being always referred to a specialist by the dentist, in advanced stages of the disease4444. Santos LCO, Batista OM, Cangussu MCT. Characterization of oral cancer diagnostic delay in the state of Alagoas. Braz. J Otorhinolaryngol 2010; 76(4):416-422..

According Santos et al.4545. Santos IV, Alves TDB, Falcão MML, Freitas VS. The paper of the dentist in relation to the oral cancer. Odontol. Clín.Cient. 2011; 10(3):207-210. the dentist must play a major role in the prevention of oral cancer, especially in the levels of primary and secondary prevention, to propose actions to facilitate the recognition of individuals belonging to the risk group and perform practices that seek early diagnosis of injuries suspicions.

In the oral cancer approach, Primary Health Care traditionally performs educational activities on self-examination and early diagnosis. Once identified any change in the soft tissues that indicate the need for biopsy, patient is reported to specialized dental center, which should perform the biopsy. As already identified in several studies, the reference and counter-reference system, by including another stage in patient care, increase the possibility of absenteeism from patient to health service. Because of this, it would be essential that patient could, if possible, perform this procedure in Primary Health Care, which probably would increase the resolution and effectiveness of the Unified Health System (SUS). Despite the prediction that Primary Care can perform biopsies1212. Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde. Departamento de Atenção Básica. Manual de Especialidades em Saúde Bucal. Brasília: MS; 2008., 100% of biopsies of the soft tissues of the mouth registered (152,651) in the Ambulatory Information System from 2009 to 2014 were carried out in Secondary Care4646. Brasil. Ministério da Saúde (MS). DATASUS. Sistema de Informações Ambulatoriais. [acessado 2015 jun 27]. Disponível em: http://datasus.saude.gov.br/sistemas-e-aplicativos/ambulatoriais/sia
http://datasus.saude.gov.br/sistemas-e-a...
.

Regarding the health sector, more investment in training of health professionals from primary care to biopsies, in addition to intersectoral and multidisciplinary actions are necessary. This need is evident considering the gap left by graduation training, since there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of biopsy in primary care, regardless of the time after graduation of the dentist. Whereas the vast majority of biopsies of the oral tissues is performed as an outpatient, low technological complexity to perform the procedure (physical structure, equipment and materials) and the effectiveness of biopsy in the early diagnosis of oral cancer, it is essential to discuss the possibility of holding this procedure in primary care, allowing act in the early stages of the injury, which can effectively contribute to decreasing mortality from oral cancer.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    May 2017

History

  • Received
    24 Feb 2015
  • Reviewed
    27 Oct 2015
  • Accepted
    29 Oct 2015
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