Oral cancer screening
As per data collected by the Oral Cancer foundation, on an average more than 48000 cases of oral cancer are reported every year in the United States. Approximately 10000 of the reported cases end in deaths, which is more than 20 percent toll. Chances of successful treatment and full recovery are better if the killer disease is detected early. Thus, the best option against this disease appears to be prevention or early detection. Screening for oral cancer is available at your dentist’s office or at your doctor’s clinic
Your dentist can carry out a screening examination to make sure you do not have any symptoms of oral cancer and to detect any signs of conditions which can lead to oral cancer. Thus you can take corrective measures to avoid this disease altogether, or if you have already acquired it, or to cure it more easily. This test can normally be part of a routine oral examination by your dentist, but may necessitate other special tests. The test will be more beneficial when one or more of the specific risk factors are attached to the patient. Some major factors are given below.
- Tobacco in any form is a major risk factor irrespective of the mode of use, i.e., chewing, sniffing, or smoking whether through cigars, cigarettes, pipe, or any other means.
- Alcohol is another serious risk factor, particularly for heavy drinkers.
- Previous history– If a person was diagnosed with oral cancer once, even if cured, it means he inherently stands risks of acquiring oral cancer.
- Genetics– Some people may be genetically weak and susceptible. Any of the risk factors above may combine with this and produce the cancer.
Limitations of Oral Cancer Screening
- Oral cancer screening is done as part of oral examination, but is not a sure check. Often further tests will be necessary to exclude or confirm the presence of oral cancer. Normally a biopsy will be carried out to determine whether any sores in the mouth are cancerous or not.
- At the same time not finding anything in the screening also does not mean the patient is hundred percent safe.
- Oral cancer screening has not been conclusively proved to reduce risk. But it appears normal that an early detection should improve chances of survival.
Do Patients Require Any Preparation?
No. You do not require any preparation except your routine oral hygiene procedures eg, brushing and flossing thoroughly. It can typically be performed during a routine appointment. If something is suspected, specific tests may be needed
What to Expect
Your regular dentist will already have your history which will include your dental history and your general medical history. Your dentist will also know about your habits about smoking, drinking, and any family tendencies. If not, he will ask questions which should be answered properly. During the oral screening examination, the dentist will inspect the inside of your mouth to check for any red or white patches or sores. With gloved hands, your dentist may feel the tissues inside your mouth to detect any lumps or other unusual formations. In case you wear dentures, those will be removed to inspect the tissue covered by them.
It is not clear if additional tests affect a survival rate, but some dentists may carry out additional tests as part of the screening out of oral cancer.
- Rinsing the mouth with a specific blue dye which colors any abnormal cells blue.
- Shining a special light in the mouth. Abnormal tissues appear white while healthy tissues appear dark
If anything abnormal is noticed, the dentist may ask you come back after sometime to see if the signs have receded. Else, a biopsy may be carried out.