General Dentistry » Mouth Cancer Screening
Cancer is when some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping, becoming more and more abnormal and spread into surrounding tissues forming tumors.
In the UK, 38,000 people are living with a diagnosis of head and neck cancer, the sixth most common malignancy reported worldwide and one with high mortality rates. Unfortunately, it is on the increase, but screening dramatically improves the chances of recovery as well as the quality of life.
Screening is defined as a test performed on people to detect disease at an early stage before the onset of itʼs signs and symptoms. Early detection by a mouth cancer screening test dramatically improves the chances of recovery.
A screening test must satisfy a few criteria to be effective and beneficial:
- It should be reliable and pick up cancer even if it is very small or just a few neoplastic cells are present.
- The benefit should exceed the trouble caused to the patient.
- It should be ethically acceptable by the person getting tested, and consent must be taken after explaining the procedure.
Mouth cancer screening forms an integral part of our comprehensive examinations that we carry out for our patients at Conway House. We carefully check every nook and cranny in your mouth and neck region for any signs of abnormalities. We use photography and our intraoral cameras (pen-like with a camera at one end) if needed to reassure you or to ensure we are keeping a close eye on you. We also make sure we get to know you really well, to find out if you smoke or have a high alcohol intake, as this increases one’s risk of oral cancer. We will encourage and help you give up these habits if you are in the right headspace for this.
If our dentists at Conway House notice something that requires further investigation, a biopsy is swiftly organised, either in-house with our Associate Specialist Oral Surgeon, Mr. Curtis, or at your nearest hospital. Anything that we are not sure about, we will ensure we find the answer. There are other innocuous conditions that can affect the mouth, and usually, further investigations such as swabs or biopsies are required to confirm the diagnosis and allow appropriate management. We will ensure that you are looked after, whatever the outcome may be.
Some of the possible symptoms of Head and Neck cancer:
- Non-healing ulcer in the mouth
- Red/ red and white patch in the mouth
- Swelling anywhere in the oral cavity or on lips
- Hoarse voice
- Loose teeth
- Lump in the neck
- Painful deglutition
- Change in sensation or pain in the head and neck region
Cause of oral cancers:
The exact aetiology behind oral cancers remains unknown, but there is some role of genetics. Personal habits and environment have a significant impact on developing oral cancers.
Some of the risk factors for Head and Neck Cancer:
- High alcohol intake (14 units is the recommended weekly limit)
- Doing both of the above increases the risk of oral cancer by 40 times!
- Chewing tobacco
- Excess sun exposure with no sunscreen
- Poor diet without enough vegetables and fruits
- Certain strains of the sexually-transmitted HPV virus
- Men are higher risk
Since smoking is strongly linked with many forms of cancer and other dental problems, we always encourage our patients to quit smoking. Conway House also offers you a smoking cessation service. An excellent source of information is the Mouth Cancer Foundation if you require any further information.
Late detection of mouth cancers has resulted in a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer, or skin melanoma, with about 2,700 deaths per year in the UK.
It is recommended that you come in for a comprehensive examination, even if you have no teeth, at least once a year to check for Head and Neck cancer. If you develop any ulcers in your mouth or sores on your face that won’t go away, lumps in your neck, or anything you haven’t noticed before, no matter how small, it is very important that you come in to have it looked at.
Call us on 01494526578 to make an appointment for a comprehensive examination to check for oral cancer!