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KNOWLEDGE AND DETECTION PRACTICES OF ORAL CANCER BY FINAL YEAR UNDERGRADUATE MEDICAL, NURSING AND DENTAL STUDENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI

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ABSTRACT

Oral cancer is amongst the most prevalent cancers worldwide and a major cause of mortality and morbidity.  Like most cancers, prognosis is majorly dependent on stage of disease at start of treatment.  Generally, high mortality is frequently associated with advanced stage disease and presence of metastases thus making early detection key in the management of oral cancer.

National population based screening programmes for major cancers such as breast and cervical cancers have been established in many countries and this has served to effectively lower the mortality rates of these cancers. However, no such programmes have been implemented for oral cancer even though oral cancer is a global health problem with increasing incidence and mortality rates.

 The main objective of this study was to assess the level of knowledge of oral cancer and practices related to the detection of oral cancer by final year undergraduate medical, nursing and dental students of UON.

 The study was a descriptive cross-sectional study that was carried out at the University of Nairobi, School of Medicine, School of Nursing sciences and School of Dental Sciences.

The study population was University Of Nairobi final year undergraduate medical, nursing and dental students.

 The materials and method used was a self administered questionnaire that was filled by students who had fulfilled the inclusion criteria.

The study found that majority of respondents knew at least one risk factor for oral cancer development. 83.3% knew the relationship between tobacco use and oral cancer development, 45.8% of respondents knew the relationship between increasing age and oral cancer development and only 14.2% knew the relationship between alcohol consumption and oral cancer development. This study also found that majority of the respondents (73.2%) offered counseling regarding tobacco use and alcohol consumption cessation to their patients. 79.2% of respondents examined the oral cavity during a routine medical examination to exclude oral cancer. Majority of respondents (53.7%) did not know a single method of oral cancer screening and only 6.5% knew three or more methods.

The study concluded that in general, university of Nairobi final year medical, nursing and dental students had high knowledge on oral cancer and its risk factors. They however, had poor knowledge on oral cancer detection methods. Majority of them however, examined the oral cavity to exclude the presence of oral cancer during a routine medical examination.

The study recommended that more emphasis be placed on oral cancer detection in the current medical, nursing and dental curricula and that similar studies be performed on practicing doctors, dentists and nurses to obtain a clearer picture on the current oral cancer detection practices employed by these professionals and their effectiveness.

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