Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April

Woman's teeth hurting

While everyone naturally associates dental professionals with teeth, it isn’t just your smile that your dentist is interested in. Dental professionals are dedicated to complete oral health and that means your entire mouth, including the tongue, palate and other soft tissues that make up your oral cavity. There are many different conditions that can affect your mouth, including the dreaded C – cancer.

Research carried out by The World Health Organization has found that there are an estimated 450,000 new cases of oral and throat cancer each year and according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, almost 10,000 Americans will lose their life to the disease.

As you might expect, accurate and prompt diagnosis of oral cancer is absolutely crucial if treatment is to be successful. One of the main reasons why oral cancer is found to be fatal is because the condition has progressed significantly before it is diagnosed. For this reason, the majority of dental professionals now incorporate comprehensive screening into their routine dental appointments.

A missed diagnosis of oral cancer

Unsurprisingly, a missed diagnosis of oral cancer can have devastating consequences for the patient and their family. Nevertheless, despite routine testing being included in most dental check-ups, failure to diagnose/a missed diagnosis is the second most common cause of dental malpractice claims and this can be down to several reasons including:

- Hygienists and other professionals not being sufficiently trained in the ‘red flags’ of oral cancer that mean the further investigation is required to confirm a diagnosis.

- Hygienists or dental professionals do not refer to the necessary health service or delay making a referral. This can cause cancer to develop further, making treatment harder and lowering the chance of success.

- Failure to obtain the patient’s oral and family medical history. This is because a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s history and lifestyle is needed to successfully monitor oral wellbeing and determine risk factors for oral cancers.

Unfortunately, the problems listed above can result in failure to obtain prompt diagnosis and treatment for oral cancer, increasing the effects that it will have on patient health and reducing the likelihood of treatment being successful.

What can be done if your oral cancer was not accurately diagnosed?

If you or a loved one have experienced a delay in getting an oral cancer diagnosis and treatment due to any of the issues listed above, particularly if your cancer has worsened as a result, you could be entitled to file a lawsuit for dental malpractice for compensation for the damages that you have sustained. These can include the costs of time away from work and medical treatment, as well as for the pain and suffering you have incurred as a result of the negligence of your dental professional.

If you would like to find out more about how to file a lawsuit for a missed or inaccurate oral cancer diagnosis, please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced and knowledgeable legal team to arrange a no-obligation consultation.