Oral Cancer Screening

This year, close to 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer. This will also cause over 8,000 deaths. So why is oral cancer so potent? It isn’t because it is particularly difficult to diagnose or is untreatable but because by the time it is discovered, it is almost always too late. As the name implies, it starts in your mouth. Yet, by the time oral cancer is found, it has often metabolized and infected another area of the body making regular oral cancer screening from a professional dentist so critical.

There are different types of oral cancer, and all of them can be extremely dangerous. Some types include cancer of the lip, tongue, oropharynx, piriform, mouth, sinus, hypo-pharynx and other places in the oral cavity. In the early stages of development, Oral cancer may not even be noticeable. In fact, some cases will not produce symptoms the patient would recognize. Be sure to see your dentist and get an oral cancer screening, before it is too late.

Quick Stats about Oral Cancer

Causes of Oral Cancer

It may not come as a surprise that statistics show that about 90 percent of people who suffer from oral cancer use tobacco. The risk increases with duration of the habit, as well as the amount smoked or chewed. Smokers are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco users (chewing tobacco, etc.) are about 50 times more likely. Even secondhand smoke can contribute to oral cancer. But these are not the only risk factors.

Other Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

The Best Way to Screen for Oral Cancer

Because early diagnosis and treatment is optimal for this disease, our dentist can provide an oral cancer screening during routine exams. Based on your risk factors, our practitioner will use specialized tests and screening methods to suit your situation. For example, if you have higher risk factors, you should schedule more frequent visits. Most commonly, the dentist will perform a physical examination during routine dental checkups, followed up with a biopsy confirmation, if necessary. Fortunately, the cure rate for oral cancer is extremely high if the disease is diagnosed during the early stages. Routine screenings will increase your chances for a cure and could possibly save your life.

The General Exam

During your oral cancer screening, the dentist will do a thorough evaluation of not only your mouth, but head and neck also. For the first portion of the exam, the dentist will take note of the symmetry of your face, skin lesions, and any evidence of swelling or paralysis. They will also examine your lips for similar signs of oral cancer. The process is quick, simple and can be accomplished during the time of polite conversation when the first dentist enters the room. Next, the dentist will want to feel and inspect your face and neck for swelling, lumps, and bumps.

The dentist will then take a close look at the oral cavity. Again, this process may vary depending on the risk factors and the individual needs of each patient. The dentist will usually have you lie back in the chair and flip on the overhead light. The dentist will dry surfaces of the mouth to take better note of color and texture changes, looking over everything. What the dentist is especially concerned about are persistent lesions, red or white patches on the soft tissue, or any other abnormalities.

Finally, the dentist may ask you about symptoms. Any one, or combination of these symptoms may indicate cancer. However, they could also indicate something else, so there is no reason to panic too soon. This is why you should be honest with your practitioner and provide as many details as possible. If necessary, the dentist will take a biopsy for testing. Most often, the entire exam takes only a few minutes.

Common Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Don’t avoid the dentist. If you do, you could miss the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and increase the chance that the cancer will spread. Instead, keep up with your routine exams. Just a few minutes in the dentist chair for a thorough oral cancer screening, could save your life.

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