Oral cancer involves abnormal cell tissue growth in the mouth, tongue, lip, palate, gums or throat. Dental care professionals at GriDent can screen patients to determine if they have oral cancer.
Diagnostic screening for oral cancer
Once you have discussed symptoms your dentist will check your mouth during a physical examination for swelling, lumps, red or pale patches. The full mouth is examined including lips, gums, inner cheeks, tongue, palate and throat and neck lymph nodes.
If cancer is suspected, you will be informed. Further diagnostic testing will be necessary and you will be given an anaesthetic before a biopsy is taken for microscopic assessment. The biopsy of cell tissue will confirm if abnormal cancerous cell growth is present. The level of cancerous growth is determined by using endoscopic testing, X-ray or MRI scans.
Symptoms of oral cancer
If oral cancer is present symptoms may include pale white patches in the mouth or on the lips. There may be bright red marks present with the pale patches. Other symptoms include a wound or ulcer in the mouth or on the lips that will not heal or bleeding in the mouth.
Pain when swallowing and bleeding in the mouth are also signs, as are lumps in the mouth, throat or neck. These symptoms usually persist after two weeks and should be checked or screened by a doctor or dental care professional for diagnosis and treatment.
Other dental conditions with similar symptoms
Other dental conditions can have similar symptoms, particularly if there is chafing in the mouth, such as that caused by dentures, metal braces or a mouth guard. Infections can also cause swelling and bleeding in the mouth unrelated to cancer. Having your symptoms checked through an oral cancer screening will enable you to receive early intervention, whether it is for another dental condition or cancer.
Causes of oral cancer
Risk factors are considered when evaluating causes of oral cancer. People at a higher risk of developing oral cancer may:
- Have a genetic predisposition to abnormal cancerous cell growth.
- Have high exposure to the sun or UV due to artificial tanning, which has damaged lip and skin tissue.
- Smoke or chew tobacco that damages oral cell tissue.
- Excessively drink alcohol, which damages oral cell tissue and the liver.
- Follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, which weakens their immunity and healthy cell growth.
- Prognosis, treatment and prevention of oral cancer
Oral cancer is usually treated with radiation or chemotherapy, and abnormal cancerous growths can spread through the body if not caught early. Having regular dental check-ups allows dentists to monitor oral health for the presence of cancerous growth, to ensure patients can receive the treatment they need – people can have oral cancer and not know it.
Other preventative measures include:
- Being screened during a physical examination and having a biopsy taken to detect cancer.
- Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, sunburn and the use of artificial tanning devices.
- Refraining from smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Moderating alcohol consumption.
- Eating a nutritious diet with regular exercise.
- Following a healthy lifestyle