Biopsies Can Motivate Patients to Quit Risky Behavior

Dentistry Today


Discussions between patients and doctors about risk factors when oral cancer biopsies occur could be a vital first step in changing the behavior of at-risk patients, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. These researchers also encourage physicians such as oral and maxillofacial surgeons who deliver diagnoses and arrange for disease treatment to advise their oral cancer biopsy patients about the risk factors associated with continued tobacco and alcohol use, potentially influencing these patients to reduce that use.

The study looked at the behavioral changes of 605 patients to determine the association between changes in alcohol or tobacco use and an oral biopsy. Adults diagnosed with hyperkeratosis, dysplasia, or carcinoma were included in the study. Larger percentages of patients with more severe clinical diagnoses quit smoking and stopped drinking alcohol following their biopsies. A higher percentage of patients with dysplasia quit than those with hyperkeratosis, a promising finding because dysplasia is potentially reversible.

Nearly 36% of people who were tobacco users at the time of their biopsies quit smoking after the exam, and almost 9% who were using alcohol stopped drinking following their biopsies. Age and race were connected to behavior changes. The youngest respondents, ages 21 to 52 years, were 3.7 times more likely to continue to smoke before or after a biopsy. White non-Hispanics were less likely to quit drinking alcohol before and after a biopsy than other races.

During diagnosis, doctors can provide evidence of the harm that tobacco and alcohol cause to potentially change patient behavior, according to the researchers. When recommending surgical removal of a suspicious lesion, doctors also can inform patients that their health could be at risk and a painful procedure may be necessary to confirm it. The diagnosis also is a chance for doctors to highlight how tobacco and alcohol affect patients and how quitting can directly improve their health.

The study, “Is Oral Biopsy Associated With Change in Tobacco or Alcohol Use?” was published by the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

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