Can Psychology help the Leaning Tower of Pisa?


As part of Sam’s interest and research into the effect of Oral and Maxillofacial Cancer, and its treatment on patients, she has been investigating the knowledge and attitudes of General Dental Practitioners (GDP).  In particular she was interested in GDP’s expereince of treatment of this patient group following completion of their cancer treatment. So she performed a small postal survey. The results of which have been submitted and accepted for presentation at two conferences (British Assocation of Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Annual Conference & European Health Psychology Conference Annual Conference).

The abstract accepted for these conferences tell you about the study and the results:

Incidents of Oral Cancer are increasing, coupled with campaigns to raise the awareness of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. To date, no study has investigated the General Dental Practitioner’s (GDP) frequency of exposure to this type of patient or their current knowledge and attitudes in relation to the treatment and potential complications of these patients post cancer. This study investigated these areas and the requirements/requests for further training and education. A questionnaire was constructed and posted to 183 GDP in the South West (UK), with a stamped returned addressed envelop. A subsequent posting was sent out a month later to the non-respondents. The analysis of numerical data was limited to descriptive statistics using SPSS V16. Free text was analysed using content analysis with the aid of NUD*IST V5. A total of sixty-one percent (n=114) of potential participants responded. On average they had been qualified and registered as GDP’s for 20.5 years. Seventy-Six percent (n=87) of respondents reported having a patient post treatment for oral cancer. Thirty-five percent were not confident treating these patients (depending on their morbidities). The reasons given could be categorised from free text responses as due to; 1) Lack of Training, 2) Poor Communication with the hospital, 3) Finance. A minority of GDPs reported the need for further education on the treatment of these patients and for better communication between themselves and hospital consultants. The findings suggest the need for a larger study to validate this pilot and indicate future interventions with GDPs.

We hope you find this research as interesting as we do, as it has implications for the training of future GDP, and improving the communication betwen patients, GDP and hospital based dentists and surgeons. The hope is that it will improve the treatment of this patient group, reduce the amount of time they have to wait for treatment, as well as the lenght of time they need to have assisted feeding through things such as Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy (PEG) feeding tubes.

As for Psychology helping the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This research probably won’t help, but we’ll keep you informed as to it’s progress once the conference is over!