Oral Cancer – Do You know What to Look for?
Research has discovered that getting an oral cancer screening from a medical professional other than a dentist is acceptable by the general population. People seem to be aware of the purpose and significance of the screening, just as much as they see the importance of getting screenings for other types of cancer.
General screenings for the public have not been shown to be able to reduce mortality rates yet. Because it is fast-spreading cancer, the American Dental Association (ADA) has found it to be of the greatest value in screening individuals who are at high risk of developing oral cancer. This could save their lives.
In most cases, oral cancer is usually detected in the advanced stages. This is largely because there is very little pain associated with it until it has reached the advanced stages. At the same time, most people are not knowledgeable of the seriousness of oral cancer and how fast it can spread. This means that they are not apt to go to a dentist or doctor for screening because having sore or other symptoms may not be considered by them to be a potentially serious problem.
The Survival Rate
As is true with any cancer, detecting it early can make a huge difference in the results. Most people recognize the value of it, but some seem to be afraid to know the results.
When oral cancer is discovered early, before it has metastasized, there is an 83.3 percent survival rate for the next five years. The percentage drops to 63.3 percent if it has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. If cancer has spread to distant points in the body, the survival rate is just 38 percent.
The number of people who will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year is expected to be 53,000. In five years, almost half of this group – 47 percent – will not make it to the five-year mark. Twice as many men will be diagnosed and die from this cancer than women.
It seems that the greatest fear of general oral cancer screenings among the public is the possibility of getting false positives. This type of event undoubtedly creates fear in a patient – and anxiety.
Not all government agencies are in agreement with providing oral exams by medical professionals – or dentists. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) considers the evidence for screenings to be non-existent – not good or bad. That is, they do not believe that enough evidence exists to make these screenings mandatory for the medical establishment in cases where symptoms are not present.
This same agency (USPSTF) also presented some of these same fears when it came time to make a decision about testing for other cancers. This included breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and cervical cancer. It also mentioned that there was sometimes pain associated with the test, as well as some possible complications that might result from it. In spite of these things, they did indicate that testing for these other cancers was acceptable.
In order to get real results on the issue of fear and value in an oral cancer screening in a non-dental situation, several questions were asked in a specially prepared survey. The questions involved whether or not they ever had an oral cancer screening, and whether or not they had screenings for other types of cancer: breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, or cervical cancer.
The answers were given on a phone interview to 100 people – all over the age of 52, and the average age was 58. Most of the people were white and they all had varying amounts of education.
The results of the survey found that people who were not knowledgeable of what oral cancer screening involved were more afraid of it. After they were informed about what is involved and why it was needed, most were able to relax their position on it and agree that it was needed. Still, a small percentage of people were afraid of getting possible positive findings.
The issue and potential risks of getting screened for oral cancer need to be addressed by medical professionals other than by dentists alone. This is especially because many people do not make regular dental visits – even when they understand the risks of oral cancer and may be at high risk for it.
The Dental Screening
Dentists will often perform an oral cancer screening if you ask. About 50 percent of them will include it in dental cleaning, but others need to be asked. Dentists are trained to recognize oral cancer and can take initial biopsies when there is suspicious tissue.
An oral cancer screening is generally short and sweet. It only takes about a minute. It involves a feeling of the neck for lumps and a visible inspection of all surfaces in the oral cavity.
Detecting oral cancer as early as possible could be life-saving. If you believe that you have a high oral cancer risk, or if you think that you might have mouth cancer symptoms and have had them for at least two weeks, you can get an oral cancer screening from Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. He can conduct a biopsy on any suspect tissue in his offices in the Carrollton, TX, and Grapevine, TX areas. Most dental plans are accepted. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.