Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS
What is the importance of Oral Cancer Screening?
An oral cancer screening is carried out by a dentist or doctor. It is required to detect signs of cancer or a precancerous lesion in the oral cavity, even before the person presents any symptoms. The goal is to find cancer early so that it is easier to remove or treat it, constituting a better chance of a cure. An important note: a screening does not mean that you have cancer, as these tests are done even when there are no symptoms of the disease.
If the result of a screening test is abnormal, you may need more tests to confirm you have cancer called diagnostic tests. When looking at lesions in the mouth, the following procedures are used to find abnormal tissue that could turn into oral cavity cancer:
Toluidine blue stain: a procedure in which lesions in the mouth are covered with a blue dye. Areas that stain darker are more likely to be or become cancerous.
Fluorescence staining: a procedure in which lesions in the mouth are observed with a special light. After the patient uses a fluorescent mouthwash, normal tissue looks different from abnormal tissue when viewed in light.
Exfoliative cytology: a procedure entailing taking cell samples from the oral cavity. A cotton ball, brush, or small wooden spatula is used to gently scrape cells from the lips, tongue, or mouth. These cells are examined under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal.
Brush biopsy: the removal of cells with a brush is designed to collect cells from all layers of a lesion. These cells are then examined under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal.
What is Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a form of disease in which malignant cells form in the mouth and throat. They can also form on the tongue in the tissue of the mouth and gums, under the tongue, at the base of the tongue, and in the area at the back of the mouth. Learning the importance of oral cancer screening is needed to be aware of how to prevent it. It occurs more often in people over 50 and in men more than women. Most cases of oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcoholic beverages, or an infection, known as the human papillomavirus (HPV).
While there is no routine early detection plan for oral cavity cancer, many precancers and developed cancers can be found early during routine follow-up exams by a dentist, physician, or dental hygienist as well as through self-examination. Some early cases cause symptoms for which people seek medical or dental care. Most of these cancers develop silently and do not cause symptoms until they have grown or spread to other tissues. Some dentists and doctors recommend a mouth self-exam in the mirror every month to check for changes, such as white spots, ulcers, or bumps. This is especially important for regular tobacco and alcohol users since these substances are the main risk factors.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
- Lump in throat, mouth, or on lips
- Dysphonia or hoarseness of voice
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Red, white, or mixed red and white patches all over the mouth
- Prolonged sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing or chewing
- Pain in the jaw and in the tongue
How to lower the risk of having an oral cancer
Have a healthy diet
Having a healthy diet does not only help you in general with your well-being. It also improves many aspects of your life including your dental health. A healthy dental diet ensures that you reduce the risk of having complications and diseases that may act as a gateway to worse things like oral cancer.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol
Alcohol in moderation is no problem. But constant and excessive consumption can harm the cells in your mouth. Once they got damaged you’ll be more susceptible to mouth cancer. We all know that too much of anything is always harmful.
Wear sun protection on your lips
Continuous exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun increases the risk of cancer on the lip, and also on the skin. Make it a point to always have sun-protective lotions on your skin and lips, especially the lower ones, to avoid immense contact with the heat of the sun.
According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, tobacco is the main cause of mouth cancer. Reducing or avoiding smoking altogether will greatly improve your dental health because it will minimize the toxins, nicotine, and other carcinogens (cancer-causing substance) that is detrimental to your health.
Have a regular dental check-up
Professional guidance by dentists is important because they can perform oral examinations to catch the early signs that you might miss. They can also provide tailor-made advice for specific conditions that you might have.
The dentist is the best healthcare professional to detect and diagnose lesions that can lead to oral cancer. During your routine exam, your dentist will ask about changes in your medical history. If you have had new or unusual symptoms, especially if you belong to risk groups. At the time of the oral cavity physical examination, the focus is on identifying lumps or abnormalities in different parts of the mouth through palpation, percussion, and exploration to detect potentially malignant or precancerous lesions. At Channel Islands Family Dental, we care about protecting your health, especially against cancer.