Diagnostic Accuracy of Screening of Lip and Oral Cavity Cancers or Potentially Malignant Disorders (PMD) by Frontline Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


1 Kalyan Singh Super Specialty Cancer Institute, Lucknow, India.

2 ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, India.

3 Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.


Background: Oral cancer screening strategies help reduce associated mortality and could be performed by a trained frontline health worker (FHW). The present review aims to assess the diagnostic accuracy of commonly used screening modalities for oral cancer performed by FHW in apparently healthy individuals. Methods: Electronic databases PubMed, Scopus, Embase, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar, were searched. The review included studies conducted where apparently healthy adult individuals were screened by the FHW for cancer or PMD of the lip and oral cavity by any of the four commonly used techniques – Conventional Oral Examination (COE), toluidine blue staining (TBS), Oral Cytology (OC), and Chemiluminescent Illumination (CLI). Findings: A total of 2,413 potentially relevant articles were retrieved from the search, among which five studies for COE were included in the review. Four out of those five studies were done before the year 2000. None of the studies fitted the inclusion criteria for TBS, OC, and CLI. Pooled sensitivity of oral screening by COE performed by an FHW (n=5) was 88.8% (95% CI: 71.6-96.1), whereas pooled specificity was 91.9% (95% CI: 78.3-97.3). On subgroup analysis, the pooled sensitivity and specificity of studies where the prevalence of disease was <50% (n=4) was 84.5% (95% CI: 62.6 – 94.7) and 94.1% (95% CI: 82.2 – 98.2), respectively. Interpretation: COE by trained FHW had high pooled sensitivity and specificity for screening of oral cancer and PMDs. The screening techniques TBS, OC, and CLI, were not studied for mass screening by trained FHW. COE by trained FHW could be utilized for oral screening in limited-resource settings. However, the FHW should be sufficiently trained to get the desired benefits of early detection. Funding: Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.


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