Although mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, it is much less common in the UK, accounting for around 1 in 50 cancers diagnosed, and if diagnosed at an early stage, the chances of successful treatment are good.
Dental teams have a vital role in the early detection of mouth cancer. They can advise patients on reducing their risk of developing the disease and screen for any suspicious lesions during routine dental check-ups. By working together, we can help ensure that more people get the treatment they need, before it’s too late.
What is mouth cancer?
Mouth cancer is a general term used to describe a range of cancers that can arise from various tissues in the mouth. These include:
Squamous Cell Carcinomas (cancer that arises from epithelial cells)
Adenocarcinomas and malignant mixed cancers (from salivary glands)
Lymphomas (from lymphoid tissues)
Sarcomas (from connective tissues and bone)
Melanomas (from melanocytes)
Genetic changes within cells cause cancer, and normal cells become abnormal. Cancer cells typically divide rapidly, forming proliferating masses of tissue (tumours) and invading adjacent structures. They attract vasculature, which means the blood supply increases and they do not obey normal biological restrictions but multiply uncontrollably. As a result, they avoid detection by the immune system.
Cancer cells’ abnormal growth and division can result from several factors, including environment, lifestyle, and genetics. While the specific cause of any one case of cancer can be challenging to determine, researchers have identified several genes that can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. Some of these genes are involved in the normal process of cell division, while others play a role in regulating the immune system. Understanding how these genes contribute to cancer development is essential in developing new therapies and preventing the disease from spreading.
Saving lives and early detection protocol
Dental team members need to be alert for early signs of cancer in the areas they can see or have access to.
Early detection saves both lives and the quality of life for sufferers and all those around them. But unfortunately, late detection leads to the need for more aggressive treatments.
Dental teams can have a positive impact on the early detection of cancer because they see patients regularly and, unlike doctors, routinely investigate mouths. They already know normal anatomy and oral medicine and are familiar with early diagnostic techniques, for example, x-ray examination, periodontal probing and measurement and saliva diagnostics. Clinical dental technicians have special importance as they see patients who would otherwise rarely have their mouths examined.
All dental team members, including non-clinical team members, have a vital role to play. Receptionists, patient coordinators and practice managers tend to get to know patients better than clinicians and will readily notice changes to appearance or quality of voice. In addition, many patients will confide more to those in a non-clinical environment. Team members should pass on any concerns these team members may have to the clinical team for further investigation.
Early Detection of Mouth Cancer – An online course from Apolline Training
Dental professionals are in a unique position to screen for oral cancer. The course is designed to provide dental teams with the education and awareness necessary for the early detection of oral cancer. The course’s objectives are that learners understand the different types of oral cancers, how to conduct a screening examination, and how to carry out extra-oral examinations. By understanding these concepts, dental professionals can play an important role in detecting and treating suspected cancers.
More than 98% of dental professionals who completed this course would recommend this course to others.
The course provides 60 minutes of verifiable CPD