Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancers of the lip, mouth, and throat are associated with tobacco and alcohol use. Other types of oral cancer are related to the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Healthcare professionals can detect precancerous and cancerous cells with a brush-like tool or by shining a special light through the 韓国歯列矯正 mouth. This is called exfoliative cytology.


Symptoms that may indicate cancer in the mouth include pain or a lump or sore that does not heal. Cancers in the front of the mouth (oral cavity) are usually related to tobacco and heavy alcohol use; those in the throat (oropharynx) more often are associated with human papillomavirus infection (the same virus that causes genital warts).

Regular self-exams can help spot potential problems. But a healthcare professional can examine the head and neck for signs of mouth cancer, including examining your tongue, gums, cheek, lips and inside the roof of your mouth.

During an exam, your provider can shine a special light in your mouth to see areas that might be harder to spot than others. They can also take a sample of cells from any suspicious areas and put them under a microscope to look for cancer or other abnormalities. If they find anything, they might take a CT or magnetic resonance imaging scan to get pictures of the area.


Like all cancers, oral cancers begin in the flat cells that line your mouth and lips (mucosa). Small changes to these cells cause them to grow abnormally. Over time, they may form a cancerous lesion or spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

Screening for cancer helps detect these lesions and determine whether or not they have spread. Your doctor will determine the stage of your cancer to guide treatment.

During a screening exam, your healthcare professional will use a visual examination to inspect the areas of concern. They will also take a tissue sample for further testing. This test is called a biopsy.

Your doctor may also perform additional tests to help diagnose oral cancer or precancerous lesions, such as exfoliative cytology or a VELscope fluorescent light exam. These exams involve rinsing your mouth with a blue dye or shining a special light on the tissues in your mouth. Healthy tissues look bright under this light; cancerous cells appear dim.


For those diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer, treatment options depend on the type and stage of the disease. If the disease is caught early, the chances of a cure are much higher. Regular screening can detect these cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults conduct self-exams on a regular basis and get screened by a healthcare professional every three years beginning at age 20 and annually starting at age 40. People with high risk should see a healthcare professional on a more frequent schedule.

The conventional test used in most screening studies and programs involves a visual inspection of the oral cavity (VOE) to identify abnormal findings that raise an index of suspicion for OPMDs or oral cancer and evaluation of neck lymph nodes for signs of regional metastases. Several commercially available adjunctive techniques, including light-based devices such as VELscope and oral rinses, can improve VOE; however, their accuracy has yet to be determined in screening trials in primary care.


The most common causes of oral cancer are tobacco and alcohol use, but it can also be caused by genetic predisposition. Pre-cancerous tissue changes can be seen as white or red spots in the mouth, lips, cheeks, gums, throat and the roof of the mouth (oropharynx).

During screening, a dentist will look for unusual spots or growths. They may rinse your mouth with a special solution or shine a bright light in your mouth to help identify these areas. They may recommend taking a biopsy of any suspicious areas. The sample is then sent to a lab to see if the cells are normal or cancerous.

Studies have shown that early detection of oral cancer increases survival rates. However, some cancers grow slowly and do not cause any symptoms or become life-threatening, even when spotted by screening. This is known as overdiagnosis. It is not clear whether this affects the benefits of screening. This PDQ cancer information summary was reviewed and revised by the PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial Board, which is independent of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It does not represent formal guidelines for clinical practice.