Have you had your oral cancer screening? It may be more important than you think. A New York Times study shows that more than 60% of all cases are found in the late stages, which dramatically drops the survival rate to a dismal 59%. It is also becoming more prevalent in patients who would normally be seen as “low risk” and is now believed to be linked with the human papilloma virus (HPV 16/18). Tests are still under review for why this is the case but scientists and medical professionals highly suggest that adults are screened for all types of cancers, even if there are no apparent cancer symptoms.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. The death rate hasn’t significantly improved over the last decade either, resulting in about 8,000 deaths per year. One number that is especially astounding is that of those 42,000 diagnosed, only an estimated 43% will survive the following 5 years.
There are four stages in oral cancer, with each stage resulting in a higher or lower survival rate. As for the rates, the survival rate of stage 1 is 80% -85%, stage 2 is 60% -70%, stage 3 is 35% -66%, and stage 4 is 15% -30%. This is why it is extremely important to identify the cancer before it is late in its development.
How does an oral cancer screening work, you may ask? At many dental offices they will use a ViziLite plus or something comparable. This procedure is a quick, painless examination that will give your dentist a better chance to find any oral abnormalities you may have at their earliest possible stage. This exam uses low intensity light that will expose the abnormal cancerous cells, which appear to glow under the light. This procedure takes all the guess work out of the equation and allows our dentists or hygienists to appropriately and quickly detect oral cancer in its most early stages.
Though direct inspection and palpation of the oral cavity is the standard procedure for cancer of the mouth and throat screening, other techniques are currently under evaluation but are considered experimental.
An important thing to know about these sores is that many of us have various kinds of irregular growths inside our mouth, with a significant amount of these swellings as non-cancerous. Oral examinations, in all truth, can’t identify which sores inside the mouth have the potential for cancer and which do not. If dentists discover uncommon lumps inside their patient’s mouth, the patient might have to undertake further tests to identify the reason for their presence, what they are, and exactly what should be done about them.
With this in mind, the only sure-fire method we have today to identify if specific swellings and sores are cancerous is to remove some of those irregular cells and test them for the cancer identification procedure we call a biopsy.
Not all medical organizations can confirm the benefits of oral examinations for oral testing. The USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) states that the point of oral cancer testing is helpful because it attempts to identify oral cancer before it can become a serious problem. However, they contend that the exam still needs additional assessment.