Oral Cancer Screening

What is Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral Cancer Screening is an examination performed by a Dentist or Doctor to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in the mouth.

What is the goal of Oral Cancer Screening?

The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify precancerous lesions that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage when there is greater chance for a cure.

Who are likely to benefit from oral cancer screeing?

People with a high risk of oral cancer are more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening. High risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • History of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer

What are the limitations of oral cancer screening?

Oral cancer screening have some limitations, such as:
  • The screening could lead to additional tests like biopsy. People frequently have noncancerous sores in their mouth and an oral exam cannot always determine which sores are cancerous and which are not. Presence an unusual sore might lead to recommendation for biopsy.
  • Oral cancer screening cannot detect all mouth cancers. It can be difficult to detect areas of abnormal cells just by looking at the mouth, so its possible that a small cancer or precancerous lesion could go undetected.
  • Oral cancer screening has not been proved to save lives. There no evidence that routine oral examinations to look for signs of oral cancer can reduce the number of deaths caused by oral cancer. However, screening for oral cancer may help find cancers early - when cure is more likely.

How is Oral Cancer Screening done?

During an oral cancer screening examination, the dentist looks over the inside of the mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores. Using gloved hands, the dentist also feels the tissues in the mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities. If a patient is wearing complete or partial dentures that are removable, the dentist or doctor will ask the patient to remove them so that the tissue underneath can be examined