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What is Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the mouth or throat. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, it will be diagnosed in roughly 53,000 Americans this year. Of those individuals, only around 57% will still be alive in five years’ time. Early detection is crucial to increasing the survival rate for oral cancer patients, which is why regular screenings are so important.

An oral cancer screening is a quick and painless exam performed by your dentist or hygienist. They will visually inspect your mouth for any signs of cancerous or precancerous lesions. If they see anything suspicious, they may also perform a physical examination of the area using their gloved hands.

Oral cancer screenings are typically performed during routine dental checkups. However, if you have risk factors for oral cancer—such as tobacco use—your dentist may recommend more frequent screenings.

What to look out for

Do I need Oral Cancer Screening?

Everyone should have regular dental checkups which will check for oral cancer.  Oral cancer screening is predominantly used to detect cancer of the mouth. Screenings will detect symptoms such as: 

  • Cancerous and precancerous lesions in areas of the mouth. 
  • Red or white patches.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Lumps or abnormalities.
  • Nodes around the throat or neck.

Who is at Risk from Oral Cancer?

There are several risk factors for any cancer, which will ultimately vary per patient. Some of the more common risk factors for oral cancers include: 


  • Tobacco use of any kind is a considerable risk factor for oral cancer.
  • Heavy alcohol and drug intake.
  • Excessive sun and UV-ray exposure to the lips.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus).  
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Severe and untreated gingivitis. 

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Oral Cancer Screening

01. What happens if oral cancer is detected?

Depending on the specific circumstances and diagnosis, if our dentist detects oral cancer, we will refer you directly to the relevant medical professional who will provide further examinations and put together a course of treatment to remove cancer from the area.

02. How long does an oral cancer screening take?

A regular oral cancer screening can take as little as five minutes from beginning to end. More thorough examinations may be needed if the dentist is concerned about some symptoms. This can be completed in just 15 minutes if an oral cancer biopsy is necessary. Oral biopsies will also require local anaesthesia to numb the affected area that will be sampled.

A small piece of the affected area will be removed and carefully preserved for testing. If the sample is large, the patient may require stitches, which the dentist will administer straight after the biopsy sample is collected. 

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