Oral Cancer - Who Is At Risk And Why Regular Screening Is Important

by Riverside Heights Dental December 28th, 2015 in Dental Health

The goal of oral cancer screenings are to catch early signs of oral cancer before they progress to a more advanced stage. While oral cancer is among the ten most common cancers according to the WHO, oral cancer can be successfully treated if caught early enough.

Regular oral cancer screenings are important, because about 84% of oral cancer cases can be found early by a dental health professional.

A dentist or dental hygienist can perform an oral cancer screening during your regular visit. He or she may use specialist tools to find discoloration or mouth sores. They will also inspect the inside of your mouth for abnormally red or white patches, which could be a sign of cancerous or precancerous tissue, and used a gloved finger to feel for any lumps or abnormalities.

It is not possible to absolutely confirm oral cancers in this way, but dental health professional is in a position to assess the risk and take further steps if necessary.

If there is a suspicion of oral cancer during your screening, your dentist will usually order you a biopsy to provide a sample that can be tested in a lab.

Medical organizations disagree whether or not people who have no risk factors require oral cancer screening. Furthermore, there is no direct correlation between oral cancer screenings and the number of lives saved from oral cancer related deaths. Early diagnosis of oral cancer, however, leads to improved treatment scenarios for patients.

Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer are:
* age (over 40s are at higher risk of oral cancer)
* gender (males are more susceptible to oral cancer than females)
* any kind of tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, or chewing tobacco
* heavy alcohol consumption
* prolonged exposure to sunlight
* an unhealthy diet
* Human papillomavirus (HPV)
* previous oral cancer diagnosis

Increasingly, people diagnosed with oral cancer have no risk factors at all, so even if you don't have any of the factors above, it is still important to consider regular oral cancer screenings to check and maintain your health.