Oral Cancer Screening

1 What is an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer screening involves the procedure followed by a dentist for the detection of cancer or precancerous situations in the mouth.

The main aim of detection is to screen cancer at early stages so that it could be treated or cured timely.

Early detection increases the chance of curing the disease. A dentist looks for any signs or symptoms of oral cancer during a routine dental examination.

The doctor may also perform some of the additional tests based on the risk factors of the individual, in order to examine the abnormal cells present in the mouth.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

The main reason for oral cancer screening test is to detect whether there is any cancerous or precancerous lesion or not.

It is easy to remove the cancerous lesion if detected early but there have been no studies which show that the procedure opted for screening will save the life of the patient.

Therefore, many organizations disagree with the benefits of screening oral cancer. Patients having a higher risk of cancer may get the benefit of the screening procedures.

Some of the risk factors that may lead to the formation of oral cancer may include:

  • The use of tobacco: People who are continuously using tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, and snuff, are at a higher risk of cancer.
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Heavy sun exposure that may lead to the cancer development in the lips.

The patient can ask his/her doctor whether the screening is appropriate for him/her and also about the ways by which the risk of cancer can be reduced.

3 Potential Risks

There also potential risks associated with the screening of oral cancer which may include:

Some patient has blisters that are usually non-cancerous but the screening may not differentiate them from cancerous blisters and therefore, the doctor may ask for further testing like biopsy followed by the microscopic examination, to get the confirmation.

The oral screening may not be able to detect the cancer cells and therefore there are chances that some of the cancer cells may get unnoticed.

The only advantage of oral cancer screening is that it helps in detecting cancer so that treatment for cancer could be started at an early stage. But there is no evidence that this would help in preventing the death of the patient.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

The screening of oral cancer as such do not require any preparation and is performed during a routine test.

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your oral cancer screening. The dentist will examine the patient by looking inside the mouth to check for the presence of any red or white patches or sores.

He/she will also check the mouth tissue for any kind of abnormality with the help of gloves. If the person under examination is wearing a denture, the doctor will ask him/her to remove them so that the tissues beneath them can be examined. 

The doctor may also advise the person to go for some additional test so as to confirm the presence of cancer but there is no clarity regarding the benefits of these tests.

Some of these tests may include:

  • Using Dye: In this test, the doctor will ask the person to rinse mouth with a special blue colored dye. Any abnormal cell may absorb the dye thus making the cell appear blue.
  • Using Light: The doctor may shine a light inside the mouth of the person while performing the oral examination. The light will make normal cell appear dark and the abnormal cells will appear white in color.

6 Procedure Results

The results of an oral cancer screening will be given by your doctor. If the doctor finds any kind of abnormality, he/she may advise the patient for follow-up visits within few weeks. In the follow-ups, the doctor will keep the track of the status of the abnormal cells.

If the abnormalities continue to appear or grow further, the doctor will ask the patient to go for a biopsy procedure or may further refer the patient to the oral cancer specialist so that he/she could examine the abnormalities in a proper manner by opting for certain diagnostic procedures.