Oral Cancer is extremely difficult to cure and, because it spreads rapidly through the body, it is essential to take great precautions and treat it during the early stages. Fortunately, most oral “sores” or “lesions” are not harmful. But a small number are dangerous, and if not identified early, they may progress to a more advanced stage. Oral cancer is a devastating disease when detected in its latter stages. Late stage treatment usually involves major facial surgery with only half of such patients surviving past five years. Therefore, it is important to see your dentist regularly so that dangerous oral lesions can be detected at an early, easily curable stage.
What to look out for:
Swelling that doesn’t go away
A sore that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
A lump or thickening in the throat, mouth or on the tongue
A red or white patch that doesn’t go away
Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue
Numbness in the mouth or tongue
Oral cancer occurs more often in smokers or people who consume large amounts of alcohol, but can develop in people of all ages or races with different lifestyle habits. If you feel you have the warning signs of oral cancer, contact your dentist as soon as possible to run a screening test.
With early detection and timely treatment, deaths from oral cancer could be dramatically reduced. The five-year survival rate for those with localized disease is 76% compared with only 19% for those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Early detection of oral cancer is often possible. Tissue changes in the mouth that might signal the beginnings of cancer often can be seen and felt easily. Regular dental check-ups, which include an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of both cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. A person may have a dangerous oral lesion and not be aware of it.
Self-examination – Early detection could save your life!:
Wash hands, remove dentures and stand in front of a mirror
Run your index finger along your outer lower and upper lips as you smile
Using both index fingers and thumbs, pull down the sides of your lower lip on both sides of your face and look at the inner lower lip – repeat for inner upper lip
Pull back your outer right cheek with two fingers and look at the right inner cheek – repeat for left inner cheek
Take your index finger and feel along your bottom gums and bottom of your mouth and underneath your tongue
Be sure to include areas without teeth, as well as around your teeth. Do the same for the top gums and roof of your mouth. You may need to slightly tip your head back to see the roof of your mouth
Stick out your tongue and look at the top side. Put your index finger in the middle of the tongue’s top side.
Gently press and say “ah” whilst looking at your throat
Taking two fingers, pull the tip of your tongue to the right, look at the left side of the tongue. Now pull the tongue to the left, looking again at the right side of the tongue.
Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth and look at the underside of the tongue
What’s involved in Oral Screening for Cancer:
External X-ray (Panoramic type) – this all the bones of the jaws and some facial structures to be comprehensively examined.
Other external X-rays: side-on and front/back views may also be indicated, but only usually as secondary requirement
Case history including review of lifestyle factors e.g. smoking, alcohol, culture
Clinical examination of all soft tissues above the neck externally
Clinical examination of all soft tissues internally
Use of slide photography of any areas of concern
Mapping of oral condition