Oral cancer, or cancer of the mouth, is a type of cancer that is not usually detected until it has already spread to surrounding tissues, such as the lymph nodes in the neck. There are several reasons for this: the early stages of oral cancer are often not noticed, or are confused with other less serious conditions that can cause sores, discolored spots, or growths in the mouth. Also, oral cancer has few symptoms in its early stages.
Oral cancer is much more common in people who smoke or use other tobacco products. While medical associations do not recommend that everybody should get checked for oral cancer annually, some high risk groups of people, such as heavy smokers and tobacco users, could benefit from regular oral cancer screening.
There are few risks to a simple oral cancer screening. A general physician can screen for oral cancer, or for even more convenience, dentists are trained to look for signs of oral cancer so you don’t even have to make an extra appointment. The most basic procedure for oral cancer screening is for the medical professional to simply look around the patient’s mouth for visible signs of the disease. A thorough visual examination like this can catch oral cancer and other problems with the teeth, gums, and other tissue in the mouth. If something abnormal is found, a biopsy may have to be performed to determine whether the lesion or growth is cancer.
Tools such as VELscopeÂ® and IdentafiÂ® can also be used to help a dentist detect oral cancer and other mouth abnormalities caused by disease or trauma. VELscopeÂ® and IdentafiÂ® are simple devices that emit fluorescence and allows the dentist to see abnormal areas that may not be visible to the naked eye.
If you are a heavy tobacco user or you notice an abnormality of some kind in your mouth and are concerned about oral cancer, make an appointment with your dentist or physician today.