May 18, 2024

Early Intervention: The Promise of Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer occurs when cells in the body multiply abnormally, resulting in the growth of abnormal tissue and lumps. Early screening for oral cancer is crucial as it can improve prognosis and facilitate successful treatment. Early-stage cancer is often curable, making early detection essential. Oral cancer is among the most common forms of cancer, often attributed to genetic factors, unhealthy habits, and infections. Unfortunately, a lack of early diagnosis can contribute to a higher fatality rate.

However, the dentist in Upper East Side, New York, and their dental team offer a compassionate approach towards oral cancer screening at an early stage when the disease is most curable.

Understanding oral cancer

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is a common form of head and neck cancer. It forms in the oral cavity and develops when cells begin to multiply and mutate abnormally.  

Oral cancer can arise in the following parts of your oral cavity:

  • Lips
  • The floor and roof of your mouth
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Salivary glands
  • Oropharynx (throat)
  • Face 
  • Cheek lining 

Why is oral cancer screening important?

The objective of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer or any precancerous lesions early. Detecting cancer in its initial stages makes treatment easier and increases the likelihood of a cure, ultimately enhancing your quality of life.

What are the warning signs of oral cancer?

The alarming signs of oral cancer include:

  • Red patches on the floor of your mouth that fail to heal. 
  • Slow-healing sores that bleed easily 
  • Hardened white or gray, raised lesions inside your mouth (leukoplakia)
  • Presence of sore lumps or thickenings in your mouth or throat
  • Inability to open your mouth completely
  • Loss of taste
  • Burning sensation in the mouth

What are the risk factors for oral cancer?

About 75% of people develop oral cancer due to the following habits:

  • A family history 
  • Smoking 
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun without sun protection
  • History of human papillomavirus (HPV)

What does an oral cancer screening include?

Your dentist may use a combination of oral cancer exam methods that include the following:

Screening tests 

  • Recording medical and family history
  • Conducting  physical exam
  • Performing a palpation test to check for lumps or bumps
  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests, including X-rays, MRI, and CT scan

Specialized tests 

  • Fluorescent light test
  • Exfoliative cytology

Annual oral cancer screening is crucial for early detection, as it can reveal initial signs of cancer during routine dental check-ups. If necessary, your dentist may suggest further tests, such as a biopsy, to confirm the diagnosis.