It’s so important to catch cancer in its early stages. This is especially true for oral cancer. A major reason many people die from oral cancer is due to late diagnosis. It’s really important to get an oral screening once a year to check for oral cancer.
Don’t worry, oral cancer screenings don’t hurt and are routine for your dentist. They have been trained to spot even the slightest symptoms.
Screenings begin with a visual inspection of your mouth. Your dentist will look at the tissue on your inner cheeks, under your tongue, and the sides of your tongue. He will feel around your jaw and look for any hard lumps that could signal a tumor.
If your dentists spots leukoplakia (an abnormal white patch of cells) or erythroplakia (an abnormal red patch of cells), your dentist will be able to use tests to further investigate if the cells are, or could be, cancer. Here are the four most commonly used tests.
1) Toluidine blue stain
The lesions in the mouth are coated with a blue dye. Areas that stain darker are more likely to be cancer or become cancer.
2) Fluorescence staining
The lesions in the mouth are viewed using a special light. After the patient uses a fluorescent mouth rinse, normal tissue looks different from abnormal tissue when seen under the light.
3) Exfoliative cytology
A piece of cotton, a brush, or a small wooden stick is used to gently scrape cells from the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat. The cells are viewed under a microscope to find out if they are abnormal.
4) Brush biopsy
Cells are removed using a brush that is designed to collect cells from all layers of a lesion. The cells are viewed under a microscope to find out if they are abnormal.
The earlier your dentist finds cancerous cells, the less chance the cancer will spread to other parts of your body. Be proactive when it comes to your health. You will be glad you did!