April Is Oral Cancer Screening Month

Should you be tested for oral cancer?

Check out this link at the Mayo Clinic to see how simple it is!

Definition-By Mayo Clinic Staff

Oral cancer screening is an examination performed by a dentist or doctor to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth.

The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early, when there is a greater chance for a cure.

Most dentists perform an examination of your mouth during a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Some dentists may use additional tests to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.

Medical organizations disagree on whether healthy people without risk factors for mouth cancer need oral cancer screening. No single oral exam or oral cancer screening test is proved to reduce the risk of dying of oral cancer. Still, you and your dentist may decide that an oral exam or a special test is right for you based on your risk factors.

 Why it's done-By Mayo Clinic Staff

The goal of oral cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer or precancerous lesions that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage — when cancer or lesions are easiest to remove and most likely to be cured.

But no studies have proved that oral cancer screening saves lives, so not all organizations agree about the benefits of an oral exam for oral cancer screening. Some groups recommend screening, while others don't.

People with a high risk of oral cancer may be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening, though studies haven't clearly proved that. Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • History of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer

Ask your dentist whether oral cancer screening is appropriate for you. Also ask about ways you can reduce your risk of oral cancer, such as quitting smoking and not drinking alcohol.

Risks-By Mayo Clinic Staff

Oral exams for oral cancer screening have some limitations, such as:

  • Oral cancer screening could lead to additional tests. Many people have sores in their mouths, with the great majority being noncancerous. An oral exam can't determine which sores are cancerous and which are not.

If your dentist finds an unusual sore, you may go through further testing to determine its cause. The only way to definitively determine whether you have oral cancer is to remove some abnormal cells and test them for cancer by a procedure called a biopsy.

  • Oral cancer screening can't detect all mouth cancers. It can be difficult to detect areas of abnormal cells just by looking at your mouth, so it's possible that a small cancer or precancerous lesion could go undetected.
  • Oral cancer screening hasn't been proved to save lives.There's no evidence that routine oral examinations to look for signs of oral cancer can reduce the number of deaths caused by oral cancer. However, screening for oral cancer may help find cancers early — when cure is more likely.

How you prepare-By Mayo Clinic Staff

Oral cancer screening doesn't require any special preparation. Oral cancer screening is typically performed during a routine dental appointment.

What you can expect-By Mayo Clinic Staff

During an oral cancer screening exam, your dentist looks over the inside of your mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores. Using gloved hands, your dentist also feels the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities.

If you wear complete or partial dentures that are removable, your dentist or doctor will ask you to remove them so that the tissue underneath can be examined.

Additional tests for oral cancer screening

Some dentists use special tests in addition to the oral exam to screen for oral cancer. It's not clear if these tests offer any additional benefit over the oral exam. Special oral cancer screening tests may involve:

  • Rinsing your mouth with a special blue dye before an exam. Abnormal cells in your mouth may take up the dye and appear blue.
  • Shining a light in your mouth during an exam. The light makes healthy tissue appear dark and makes abnormal tissue appear white.

Results-By Mayo Clinic Staff

If your dentist discovers any signs of mouth cancer or precancerous lesions, he or she may recommend:

  • A follow-up visit in a few weeks to see if the abnormal area is still present and note whether it has grown or changed over time.
  • A biopsy procedure to remove a sample of cells for laboratory testing to determine whether cancer cells are present. Your dentist may perform the biopsy, or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in oral cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Courtesy Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/oral-cancer-screening/basics/definition/prc-20110761h

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Prevention

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers today and has one of the lowest survival rates, with thousands of new cases being reported each year. Fewer than half of all people diagnosed with oral cancer are ever cured.

Moreover, people with many forms of cancer can develop complications—some of them chronic and painful—from their cancer treatment.  These include dry mouth and overly sensitive teeth, as well as accelerated tooth decay.

If oral cancer is not treated in time, it could spread to other facial and neck tissues, leading to disfigurement and pain.

Older adults over the age of 40 (especially men) are most susceptible to developing oral cancer, but people of all ages are at risk.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, but the tongue appears to be the most common location. Other oral structures could include the lips, gums and other soft palate tissues in the mouth.

Warning Signs

In general, early signs of oral cancer usually occur in the form of lumps, patchy areas and lesions, or breaks, in the tissues of the mouth. In many cases, these abnormalities are not painful in the early stages, making even self-diagnosis difficult.

Here are some additional warning signs:

  • Hoarseness or difficulty swallowing.
  • Unusual bleeding or persistent sores in the mouth that won't heal.
  • Lumps or growths in other nearby areas, such as the throat or neck.

If a tumor is found, surgery will generally be required to remove it. Some facial disfigurement could also result.

Prevention

Prevention is the key to staving off oral cancer. One of the biggest culprits is tobacco and alcohol use. Certain kinds of foods and even overexposure to the sun have also been linked to oral cancer. Some experts believe certain oral cancer risk factors are also hereditary.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is one of the best defenses against oral cancer. Maintaining good oral hygiene, and regular dental checkups, are highly recommended.


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