Should You Get Tested for Oral Cancer?

Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging

Oral cancer can develop unexpectedly in just about anyone's mouth. It can appear suddenly and grow rather fast. This means it is that much more important to find signs of mouth cancer when they first appear so that diagnosis and treatment can be started quickly.


The Oral Cancer Exam


Many times it is the dentist who will first notice the oral cancer symptoms. They are trained to be able to recognize the symptoms and mouth cancer early stages. When symptoms are noticed, the dentist will feel your neck for swollen lymph glands. You will also be asked about any symptoms you might have, and the dentist will also look at your lips, gums, cheeks, and your voice box.


If oral cancer symptoms are discovered by your dentist, the examination of your head and neck are necessary because other forms of cancer may also be present. This type of cancer is often accompanied by other forms. The vast amount of blood vessels in your head and neck enable them to grow fast.


Tests for Oral Cancer


After signs of oral cancer have been detected, further testing will be necessary to determine the type. One type of test that the dentist can perform is called an oral brush biopsy. They will simply brush the suspicious area to collect cells. It will then be sent to a lab where a diagnosis can be given. If the results are positive, a regular biopsy will be necessary to confirm the findings.


Why Early Treatment is Necessary


It has already been mentioned that oral cancer will spread fast. Unfortunately, the Mayo Clinic says that there is no single test available yet that can detect it. This means that a dentist will often find it first by finding swollen lymph nodes in the neck. By this time, however, it has already spread considerably. This also means that it may be too late for a cure.


Mayo Clinic also admits that no oral cancer screening has yet altered the risk of dying from it. However, many patients that have had oral cancer do live past the five-year mark.


The good news, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, is that many lesions found in the mouth are benign – not cancerous. The difficulty in diagnosis is that as many as 90 percents of cancers occurring in the mouth is going to be identified from lesions, and the cancerous and non-cancerous ones may have similar appearances.


Why an Oral Cancer Test Is Advised


The reason why you may want to have oral cancer screening is to hopefully detect the start of oral cancer – is present. Most people do not need one, but if you have significant risk factors, then it is a good idea. Let your dentist know that you feel you have some risk factors and would like to be tested for it.


Types of Additional Testing


If there is a possibility of oral cancer, and some symptoms are present, a dentist may also use a blue dye. This dye stains cancer cells so that problems can be identified. If there is a positive indication of oral cancer, a biopsy will be needed to verify it.


Other tests may also be needed if the biopsy comes out positive. These other tests are necessary in order to determine how far cancer has spread and to check for other types of cancer.


  • Endoscope – the doctor may need to send a camera through the nose to take a look. It will reveal whether or not there are tumors or lesions in your throat and voice box.


  • Imaging Tests – these tests will reveal if cancer has spread beyond your mouth. It may include x-rays, CT scans, MRI, and possibly PET scans. The tests you need will depend on the findings.


The Risk Factors


The people who are most at risk are those who smoke and drink heavily, and who are over the age of 50. Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer as women. People who have the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the mouth (from oral sex with multiple partners) are more likely to develop throat cancers. The early signs of oral cancer from HPV are harder to detect because the symptoms usually start at the base of the tongue and in the tonsils.


Ongoing Tests Needed


If you have ever had oral cancer, it is important that you continue to get regular oral cancer screenings from your dentist. This is because oral cancers can reoccur.


When you want to be tested for oral cancer, Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist, can perform the screening for you. He has offices in the Carrollton, TX or Grapevine, TX areas, and can identify mouth cancer symptoms. You can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578, to schedule an oral cancer screening.  


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