Oral cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells in the oral cavity which includes the lips, cheeks, hard and soft palate, tongue, sinuses, and the throat. The most common symptoms include lumps, thickening or rough spots found in the lips, gums and other parts inside the mouth; constant sore and excessive bleeding in the mouth that does not heal for 2 weeks; development of white and red patches in the mouth; persistent sore throat; and difficulty in moving the jaws.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 39,500 people in the U.S. will have oral and oropharyngeal cancers in 2015. The cancer is more common among males, aged above 50 and equally common among black and white races. Other risk factors for developing oral cancer are smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, human papilloma virus infection and genetics.
Oral cancer screenings are performed in order to identify the presence of abnormal cell growth in its early stage. Screenings are often performed by dentists during dental examinations. They visually look for signs and symptoms indicative of cancerous growth and feel for the presence of lumps or lesions inside and outside the oral cavity. Dentists may perform oral brush biopsy for less suspicious looking lesions. A scalpel biopsy is performed if the lesions look more suspicious and are indicative of cancer growth in the oral cavity.
Thorough oral screenings should be done because some oral cancers are asymptomatic in its early stages. Early detection is the key to higher survival rate against this type of cancer. It is important that everyone, especially those who are high risk for this type of cancer, should be screened yearly. With early detection and prompt treatment, the number of deaths from this cancer will eventually decrease.