Oral cancer is any cancer of the lips, mouth, tongue, upper throat as well as in the jawbones. They may present as a non-healing ulcer or a swelling, and are not always painful or visible.
Oral cancer screening comprises a risk assessment (smoking, alcohol, diet, viruses), as well as a rigorous visual examination; and in some instances, specific tests. Suspicious spots or patches can be biopsied and sent for testing by an oral medicine specialist.
Early detection of the cancer drastically improves the prognosis and decreases the severity of treatment.
The more common cancers that are seen by dentists include squamous cell carcinomas (which are also skin cancers), melanomas, bone cancers such as osteosarcomas and ameloblastomas. The commonest site for mouth cancers is on the side of the tongue.