Oral cavity

Diagnosis for Oral cavity

If lesions are seen in the mouth, the following procedures may be used to find abnormal tissue that might become oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer:

  • Toluidine blue stain: A procedure in which lesions in the mouth are coated with a blue dye. Areas that stain darker are more likely to be cancer or become cancer.
  • Fluorescence staining: A procedure in which lesions in the mouth are viewed using a special light. After the patient uses a fluorescent mouth rinse, normal tissue looks different from abnormal tissue when seen under the light.
  • Exfoliative cytology: A procedure to collect cells from the lip or oral cavity. A piece of cotton, a brush, or a small wooden stick is used to gently scrape cells from the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat. The cells are viewed under a microscope to find out if they are abnormal.
  • Brush biopsy: The removal of cells using a brush that is designed to collect cells from all layers of a lesion. The cells are viewed under a microscope to find out if they are abnormal.

Source: NCI (NIH)1

Screening Tests for Oral cavity

Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Screening

Key Points

Source: NCI (NIH)2

   •   •   •

Tests are used to screen for different types of cancer.

Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.

Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, the chance of recovery is better if the disease is found and treated at an early stage.

Clinical trials that study cancer screening methods are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

Source: NCI (NIH)3

   •   •   •

There is no standard or routine screening test for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer.

Screening for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be done during a routine check-up by a dentist or medical doctor. The exam will include looking for lesions, including areas of leukoplakia (an abnormal white patch of cells) and erythroplakia (an abnormal red patch of cells). Leukoplakia and erythroplakia lesions on the mucous membranes may become cancerous.

Source: NCI (NIH)4

   •   •   •

Risks of Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Screening

Key Points

  • Screening tests have risks.
  • The risks of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer screening include the following:
  • Finding oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer may not improve health or help a person live longer.
  • False-negative test results can occur.
  • False-positive test results can occur.
  • Misdiagnosis can occur.

Source: NCI (NIH)5

   •   •   •

Screening tests have risks.

Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

The risks of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer screening include the following:

Finding oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer may not improve health or help a person live longer.

Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, the cancer may be treated. Finding these cancers is called overdiagnosis. It is not known if treatment of these cancers would help you live longer than if no treatment were given, and treatments for cancer, such as surgery and radiation therapy, may have serious side effects.

Screening may also find oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers that have already spread and cannot be cured. When these cancers are found, treatment may cause serious side effects and not help a person live longer.

False-negative test results can occur.

Screening test results may appear to be normal even though oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is present. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.

False-positive test results can occur.

Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests and procedures (such as biopsy). which also have risks.

Misdiagnosis can occur.

A biopsy is needed to diagnose oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Cells or tissues are removed from the oral cavity or oropharynx and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. When the cells are cancer and the pathologist reports them as not being cancer, the cancer is misdiagnosed. Cancer is also misdiagnosed when the cells are not cancer and the pathologist reports there is cancer. When cancer is misdiagnosed, treatment that is needed may not be given or treatment may be given that is not needed.

Source: NCI (NIH)6

Anatomy Articles

Read about these related anatomy topics:

Symptom Articles

Read about these related symptoms:

  • Anxiety: Anxiety is the well-known feeling of concern. Some level of rational anxiety is normal some of the time and does not indicate a disorder. Anxiety is also reasonably common ...

      ... More on Anxiety  »

Disease and Condition Articles

Read about these related conditions and diseases:

Related Symptom Topics

Read more about these related symptoms:

... More »

Related Disease and Condition Topics

Read about these diseases and medical conditions related to Oral cavity:

... More »

   •   •   •

References

  1. Source: NCI (NIH): cancer.gov/ types/ head-and-neck/ patient/ oral-screening-pdq
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. Source: NCI (NIH): cancer.gov/ types/ head-and-neck/ patient/ oropharyngeal-treatment-pdq
  8. Source: GARD (NIH): rarediseases.info.nih.gov/ diseases/ 6897/ leukoplakia

   •   •   •

Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.