A Guide to Oral Cancer Screening and Its Importance
According to the American Cancer Society, about 49,670 people are diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Moreover, 9,700 people succumb to the effects of the disease annually. Oral cancer has historically been linked with males over the age of 60 who smoke. However, there has been an alarming and steady rise in cancer cases, especially in females aged 40 and below.
Unfortunately, most cancer cases are not diagnosed until they reach the advanced stage. This trend is attributed to late detection rather than a lack of testing equipment.
A common misconception is that oral cancer screening is not necessary unless you have the risk factors. However, it is worth noting that some cases develop without the identifiable risk factor.
The most recommended way to avoid early oral cancer is to get a screening regularly.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer affects the throat just behind the mouth. It accounts for 1.5% of all cancers in men and 0.4% of all cancers in women.
Oral Cancer affects tissues lining the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, palate, the floor of the mouth or throat/pharynx. It can be caused by multiple factors, like genetics and exposure to tobacco and alcohol.
Oral cancer is the 8th most common cancer globally, and it is estimated that roughly 600,000 people will be diagnosed with Oral Cancer worldwide in 2018.
The most common sign of Oral Cancer is a persistent sore throat or mouth pain that does not resolve with over-the-counter medication.
Oral cancers appear as white or red patches. The lesions can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions, hence can go unnoticed or untreated.
The Oral Cancer Foundation recommends that individuals schedule regular examinations every six months, starting at age 20 or whenever bleeding from the mouth occurs.
What is the Importance of Oral Cancer Screening?
Mouth cancer screening is necessary because oral cancer has a high mortality rate and can be easily prevented with regular screening.
Oral cancer screening in Vancouver is the process of examining the mouth for symptoms. These include white or red patches, unusual lumps or sores that are bleeding, painful, don’t heal, or keep growing. Oral cancer screening is vital because it can increase the chances of surviving the disease.
How is Oral Cancer Screening Done?
Our dentist in Vancouver, BC, performs oral cancer screening using the visual and physical examination approach.
Oral cancer screening is a simple procedure of visual examination where the tissues are examined. Oral cancer screening may also involve special tests such as X-rays or biopsies.
Physical examination oral cancer screening is a procedure where the tissues in the mouth and face are examined. Oral cancer screening evaluates areas, such as mouth tissues, oral mucous membranes, soft tissues- floor of the mouth, buccal mucosa, gingiva, and maxilla and mandible.
Who Should Get Physical Examination Oral Cancer Screening?
Physical examination oral cancer screening can be done on everyone from a young age. But it is recommended in:
- People aged 40 and above
- People who have a history of heavy alcohol or tobacco use (e.g., more than one alcoholic drink per day, more than five cigarettes per day)
- People who do not practice good oral hygiene and care
There are other risk factors, such as human papillomavirus. HPV is a risk factor for cancers in the oropharynx, but not salivary glands and nasal passages.
How to Prevent Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is very preventable. The easiest way to stay oral cancer-free is:
- Eat healthily and exercise regularly
- Avoid smoking and over consumption of alcohol
- Use sunscreen when going under direct sunlight
It is also important to focus on other preventive dental care treatments like regular dental checkups and cleaning.
Early signs of oral cancer are not visible during the early stages of development. Oral cancer screening is necessary for early detection, and it can improve your chances of survival.
Visit Enhance Dental Centre for oral cancer screening and ways of preventing mouth cancer.