Most people have the habit of seeing their dentist on a regular basis. This is a time suitable for a checkup, for cleaning and having those unwelcome cavities filled. What many don’t know is that this regular dental checkup is also a perfect time to have an oral cancer check. Whereas oral cancer is not that often discussed it is never the less a very real situation with thankfully real precautions that can produce real results. Let’s dive into this reality.
The official numbers
Every year over 1,100 patients succumb to oral cancer in Canada. The research, conducted in 2012, also shows that the majority of these cases were discovered when the patient was having a dental checkup and the dentist discovered an oral lesion. In most of the cases it is discovered rather late in the development and therefore 60% have a survival rate of 5 years. Of the 3000,000 people worldwide that are affected by oral cancer 4,000 are Canadians. Although much less is known about it by the general public research shows it is more common that brain, cervical or stomach cancer.
How it works
The screening is not painful and can be done during a routine visit to your dentist. It consists of a visual examination on the inside of the mouth to determine if there are white or red sores on the gums, cheeks, tongue or palate. Quite often this exam uses low intensity light that causes cancerous cells to glow under thus taking the guess work to a minimum Gloved hands are normally used to check for lumps that may have been missed during the visual screen. Whereas mouth sores are quite common with the large majority being of non-cancerous nature additional tests could be required including undergoing a biopsy.
Symptoms and fallacies
Symptoms are best identified by your dentist but any sign of mouth sores or blisters, white or red patches or lumps or numbness in the oral area should be mentioned to your family dentist. There are also many fallacies doing the rounds regarding oral cancer such as that it only happens to smoker and those who drink alcohol. About 25% of people diagnosed with oral cancer have no history of usage of either tobacco or alcohol. Whereas the incidence of oral cancer is increasing in those less than 40 years of age many people still believe that only the elderly are at risk.
Importance of regular screening
Oral cancer is similar to other forms in that the later it is diagnosed the higher the incidence of it having spread and the lower the probability of a complete cure. With regular screening the possibility that any abnormality will be detected by the dentist is significantly increased. Whereas screening on a regular basis is advisable for all of us it is even more so indicated in those that have a family history of cancer or excessive exposure to sun or even a past cancer diagnosis.
It is a good policy to speak to your dentist about oral cancer. Professional dentists like Dr Dang will, together with his team, answer questions and perform oral cancer screening whenever the need arises.