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Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screenings are conducted routinely for adults as part of a regular comprehensive cleaning and examination. If any suspicious lesions are seen in the mouth, a biopsy may be taken to collect tissue for evaluation. A biopsy collects cells from all layers of a lesion for microscopic viewing to determine whether abnormal cells are present.
Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers today and has one of the lowest survival rates, with thousands of new cases being reported each year. As of July 2011, the National Cancer Institute reported that the number of new cases of oral cancer have been increasing slowly; however, fewer than half of all people diagnosed with oral cancer are ever cured. Moreover, people with many forms of cancer can develop complications—some of them chronic and painful—from their cancer treatment. These include dry mouth and overly sensitive teeth, as well as accelerated tooth decay. If oral cancer is not treated in time, it could spread to other facial and neck tissues, leading to disfigurement and pain.
In general, early signs of oral cancer usually occur in the form of lumps, patchy areas and lesions, or breaks, in the tissues of the mouth. In many cases, these abnormalities are not painful in the early stages, making even self-diagnosis difficult. Here are some additional warning signs:
- Hoarseness or difficulty swallowing.
- Unusual bleeding or persistent sores in the mouth that won’t heal.
- Lumps or growths in other nearby areas, such as the throat or neck.