The Importance of Early Detection
Early detection is the key to oral cancer treatment's success. Deaths from oral
cancer can be dramatically reduced with early detection and timely treatment. 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. Know the early
signs and see your dentist regularly. Unfortunately, in the early stages, oral cancer
can go unnoticed. Your dentist has the skills and tools to ensure that early signs
of cancer and pre- cancerous conditions are identified. You and your dentist can
fight and win the battle against oral cancer. If diagnosed and treated earlier,
this cancer, found in the mouth, lip or throat, is often highly curable.
Regular Dental Check-ups are Important
Oral cancer screening is a routine part of a dental examination. Regular dental
check- ups, is essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre- cancerous
conditions. You may have a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore and not
be aware of it.
Your dentist will examine the inside of your mouth and tongue and in some patients
may notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore. This may look harmless
and does not have a clear cause. Harmful oral spots or sores often look identical
to those that are harmless, but testing can tell them apart. If you have a sore
your dentist may treat it and ask you to return for re- examination.
To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform
a simple test, such as a brush test. A brush test collects cells from a suspicious
lesion in the mouth. The cells are sent to a laboratory for analysis. If pre-cancerous
cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate
procedure. It’s important to know that all atypical and positive results from a
brush test must be confirmed by incisional biopsy and histology.
Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. By preventing
cancer, the number of new cases of cancer in a group or population is lowered. Hopefully,
this will lower the number of deaths caused by cancer.
To prevent new cancers from starting, scientists look at risk factors and protective
factors. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer
risk factor; anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called
a cancer protective factor.
Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, both
smoking and inheriting certain genes are risk factors for some types of cancer,
but only smoking can be avoided. Regular exercise and a healthy diet may be protective
factors for some types of cancer. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective
factors may lower your risk but it does not mean that you will not get cancer.
Different ways to prevent cancer are being studied, including:
- Changing lifestyle or eating habits.
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
- Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth.
Finding and removing epithelial dysplasias before they become cancer can be one
of the most effective methods for reducing the incidence of cancer.
- Knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for oral cancer screenings can
help prevent this deadly disease.
- Taking medicines to treat a pre-cancerous
condition or to keep cancer from starting.
Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help
find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it
may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain
types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see
if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened
for cancer, which screening tests should be used and how often the tests should
It is important to remember that your dentist does not necessarily think you have
cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you
have no cancer symptoms.
The problem is not simply that the number of new oral cancer cases is rising but
that people continue to put themselves at risk through smoking and excessive drinking.
An equal or greater challenge is that oral cancers are not being found early enough
for successful treatment.
Pre-cancer check-up by the dentist involves the following:
- Conventional Oral Examination.
- Toluidine blue stain.
- Brush biopsy.
- Exfoliative cytology.
- Chemiluminescence (reflective tissue fluorescence).
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It is very important for an early diagnosis for prompt treatment and better prognosis
of oral cancer.
Diagnostic aids for oral cancer:
- CT Scan
- Histopathologic Diagnosis
- Brush Biopsy
- Scalpel Biopsy
- Excisional biopsy
- Incisional biopsy
- Needle biopsy
- Punch biopsy
- Exfoliative Cytology
- Biomarkers/Tumor Markers
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