Oral Cancer Diagnosed Too Late

Across the world, more than 500,000 new cases of cancer of the mouth are diagnosed each year. The majority are found too late, causing many people to die within five years. There is little information related to early diagnosis and referral.

Although the need for prosthodontics was expected to decline with the promotion of preventive measures, it is actually increasing with the aging population. The highest risk of developing oral cancer is in adults over 40 who use both tobacco and alcohol.

The majority of oral, head and neck cancer are initially diagnosed in a late stage, which has a five year prognosis of less than 50 percent. If these tumors are found in their earliest stage, the five year prognosis becomes a very good 95 percent.

All dentists are  trained to detect these tumors in an early stage. Even so only around 1/4 of patients reported ever having had an oral cancer examination. Patients who have lost their teeth must be specifically counseled about returning for prescribed, regular recall examinations. They may wrongly think that, as they do not have all or any of their teeth, they do not need to be regularly followed by a prosthodontist.

Recently, several companies have marketed simple tests intended to aid the dentist in the early detection and diagnosis of oral lesions. Any sore, lump, or bump in the mouth that bleeds, is enlarging, or will not heal should be evaluated.

If prosthodontists and  dentists are more vigilant in performing oral cancer screening, the quality of life and survivability from these cancers will be greatly improve.

Adapted from materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell.

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