Facts and Myths About Oral Cancer Screening Tests

Facts and Myths About Oral Cancer Screening Tests

April 1, 2023

If you have time to be online, you will find information about almost anything. Unfortunately, not everything available online must be taken as the truth. The stakes are higher when talking about medical and health issues. For example, if you look up oral cancer and its screening tests, there are stories and narratives surrounding them. However, unless you have heard it from a dentist or a medical professional, do not be quick to believe it.

What is Oral Cancer?

It is a medical condition featuring cancerous cells in the mouth and the surrounding areas. Oral cancer often manifests within the mouth but can also be found in the throat, neck, and other facial features. Some of the common types of oral cancer in dentistry are:

  • Throat cancer
  • Tongue cancer
  • Cancer of the roof and floor of the mouth
  • Lip cancer

What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?

If you are keen on your oral health, you will be able to detect anomalies in your mouth that can point to oral cancer. Examples of the signs of oral cancer are:

  • Unexplained bleeding in your mouth
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in your mouth
  • Lumps, bumps, and tumors in different parts of your mouth
  • Whitish or reddish velvety patches in your inner cheeks and gums
  • Dental pain in your gums and jawbone when you chew

What is Oral Cancer Screening?

It is a series of tests and examinations that help detect cancerous cells in the mouth. At Coopersburg Dental, oral cancer screenings are tests we conduct periodically, usually once every year. The primary goal of the test is to detect any anomalies in the mouth that can point to precancerous cells. However, oral cancer screening is just a test, not a means for diagnosis or prognosis of the condition. Therefore, even after oral cancer screenings in Coopersburg, PA, you will need further tests to confirm or deny the presence of cancerous cells in your mouth.

Facts Vs. Myths About Oral Cancer Screening

  • Oral cancer screening can cure cancer.

First, medical experts avoid using the term cure when referring to the success of treatments. The stakes are higher for cancer since it can reoccur even after being in remission for a while. Further, oral cancer screening is not a cure or treatment for oral cancer. Instead, it is an evaluative test that can detect precancerous cells, probing further tests for diagnosis and prognosis.

  • Oral cancer screenings are inaccurate.

Many people easily undervalue the benefits of oral cancer screenings, deeming them inaccurate for detecting oral cancer. Contrarily, the screening tests are very accurate in identifying early signs of oral cancer, which will then dictate further diagnosis. Besides, without a screening test, you can easily mistake signs of oral cancer for gum disease because they are similar.

  • You must get oral cancer screening every year.

Ideally, oral cancer screenings should be annual evaluations. However, it does not apply to every patient. Some patients may require more screenings than once a year while others should test once every three years. Your degree of risk of oral cancer determines the frequency of screenings you need.

  • Oral cancer screening can stop cancer.

Technically, it is not completely false that oral cancer screenings can stop oral cancer. However, it only works when the screening test helps your dentist detect cancer in the early stages. When this happens, you can begin cancer treatment before it spreads and becomes life-threatening. Therefore, an oral cancer screening test can stop oral cancer and save your life.

  • Everyone needs oral cancer screening.

​Although everyone can benefit from an oral cancer test, it may not be necessary for everyone. Dentists in Coopersburg typically recommend that if you are over 20 years, you should have a screening every three years. Older adults may require more screenings than once a year. Usually, dentists recommend annual oral cancer screenings to patients with a high risk of oral cancer. Some of the factors that make you a high-risk patient for oral cancer are:

  • Smoking and other tobacco usage – studies show that smokers are 50% more likely to suffer from oral cancer than non-smokers.
  • A previous diagnosis of cancer – if you have had cancer in any other part of your body, it can come back and appear in your mouth.
  • Family history and genetics – if other family members have suffered from oral cancer, it can happen to you too.