Oral Cancer Screening

 In oral health

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer accounts for more than 9 000 deaths per year in the USA. There are more than 48 000 cases of oral cancer per year and there is less than a 60% survival rate from oral cancer. 14% of oral cancer cases start in the mouth, 17% in the lips and 30% originate in the tongue. 75% of all head and neck cancers start in the oral cavity.

It has also been shown that the earlier the detection, the greater the chance of survival. It should then be self-evident that regular oral cancer screening would be a good idea. You can look out for early warning signs yourself through self-examination, and you can ask your health professional, be it a dentist, doctor or periodontist, to perform an oral cancer screening.

What are the Early Indicators of Oral Cancer?

  • Having difficulty speaking, chewing or swallowing
  • Changes of colour in your mouth i.e. red or white patches
  • Tenderness in lips and tongue
  • Having persistent sores in your mouth.

Who is the Most Susceptible to Oral Cancer?

  • People who drink and or smoke heavily
  • People who have been subjected to long periods of sun exposure
  • People who have a previous history of malignancy

What Can You Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening?

  • The dentist at Birch Dental Group or doctor will do a thorough physical examination of the entire oral cavity as well as your head and neck. The most commonly used tools in a general examination are the dentist’s eyes and hands. By carefully examining and, where necessary, feeling or massaging the suspect spot, the dentist will be looking for any of the early indicators of oral cancer.
  • In some cases the dentist might use a special dye in your mouth. Suspect cells will absorb the dye and shown a colour change.
  • Dentists also use a special light, on a flexible tube, to minutely examine your mouth. This is called an endoscopy. Again the abnormal cells will show up under the light. The advantage of the endoscopy is that it can go to places that are hidden from the naked eye, and can get up real close to any area that needs closer examination.
  • If the dentist is really suspicious of a certain area he will perform a biopsy. A small amount of the suspect tissue is extracted using a very fine needle. This tissue is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. This will then confirm or refute the presence of an oral cancer. Other techniques used to confirm an initial diagnosis include Cat scans, barium swallows and x-rays.


Although not recommended as the only form of oral cancer screening, self-examination is a useful aid in the early detection of any abnormalities in your mouth. With the help of a mirror and a strong light, a regular, careful examination of your mouth will very soon show you any “not quite right” areas. If nothing else, this should be the spur for you to seek professional advice by going immediately for an oral cancer screening.

We are all anxious about any talk of cancer, but research clearly indicates that early detection of oral cancer considerably raises your chances of recovery. It therefore makes sense to be conscious of what’s going on in your mouth and to go to your dentist for an oral cancer screening regularly.

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