To assess the knowledge of first- (M1) and fourth- (M4) year medical students regarding head and neck cancer (HNC) risk factors, signs, symptoms, and frequency; designated oral screening recommendations; head and neck physical examination techniques; and medical school curriculum on this subject.
Cross-sectional cohort study using a survey questionnaire.
Two metropolitan-area medical schools in Chicago, Illinois.
Of 601 M1 and M4 medical students, 304 completed the survey.
Main Outcome Measures
Percentage of medical students from 2 classes at 2 different universities who knew baseline knowledge about HNC.
The response rate was approximately 50% for each class from each university. The M1 students from the 2 institutions differed on identifying a lump in the neck and voice changes among the signs and symptoms associated with HNC and American Cancer Society examination recommendations. The M4 students did not differ between the 2 schools and were more knowledgeable than the M1 students on risk factors, signs, symptoms, most frequent histologic type, American Cancer Society recommendations, and common subsites of HNC. Curricular experiences, as expected, varied between M1 and M4 students.
This study demonstrates an increase in knowledge about HNC in M4 students compared with M1 students. Yet, graduating students are still deficient regarding certain risk factors, oral screening guidelines, head and neck examination techniques, and medical school curriculum. Further efforts should be aimed at expanding head and neck education for medical students.