A partnership between BC Cancer, UBC, and the Portland Dental Clinic is providing oral cancer screening to the Downtown Eastside community. One of the oldest and most diverse communities in Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside is marked by high poverty rates, substance abuse, drug trafficking, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, crime and unemployment. Preliminary research and screening indicates the residents are at higher risk of developing oral pre-malignant lesions, cancers and other oral mucosal diseases. Dr. Catherine Poh, of BC Cancer, holds screening sessions at the clinic twice per month, and through a series of focus groups held in the spring of 2006, has identified the unique problems and particular needs of this community. Topics include knowledge of oral cancer, existing access to medical/ dental care, basics of an oral screening program, optimal locations for screening clinics, and incentives to attend such clinics. A focus group with Downtown Eastside nurses is in the planning stages to obtain ideas on integrating oral cancer screening into existing patient care programs.
This program is one of several projects of the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program, bringing dentists and oral hygiene professionals into the community to make first-line decisions about early stage biopsies and referrals for anti-cancer related care. So far, the program has identified several cases of severe oral disease, including people requiring treatment for cancer and pre-cancerous conditions.