Oral Cancer Screenings
Detect Oral Cancer at Its Earliest Stage
According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies from oral cancer every hour of every day in the United States. However, oral cancer is highly curable if diagnosed early.
An oral cancer screening is a physical examination for early-stage cancer before any symptoms have arisen. Unfortunately, most oral cancer is not detected until symptoms have significantly developed, at which point the condition is much harder to treat and may have even begun to spread. The goal of oral cancer screenings is to discover any potentially harmful growths or lesions right at their onset, when treatment is simplest and most effective. An oral cancer screening can help ensure that you avoid a potential delay in diagnosis and receive prompt treatment.
What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening
A thorough examination can be completed in less than five minutes. It will begin as soon as you start talking to your dentist, during which time they will listen for any speech abnormalities such as a hoarse or raspy voice that could indicate an abnormality in the area surrounding your throat. Your dentist will then use a bright light to examine your oral cavity, which consists of your lips, tongue, cheeks, tonsils and back of your throat, inspecting for any lesions that are visible to the trained eye but can’t be felt. He or she will then ask you to move your head in a variety of ways while gently pressing on different areas of your neck to detect any abnormalities in this region. You will also be asked to breathe in particular ways or make certain sounds while your dentist observes different components of your oral cavity. The purpose of this is to ensure that all parts being inspected are responding in the way they should be. Your dentist will also use either a mirror or a special fiber optic tool to observe areas that are not regularly visible.
Do I Need an Oral Cancer Screening?
Everyone should be screened for oral cancer at least once a year. However, there are certain risk factors that make more frequent screenings a good idea. Tobacco and heavy alcohol use are chief among these, and historically 75 percent of oral cancer cases are related to these substances. However, HPV (Human Papillomavirus) has also been found to indicate a higher risk for oral cancer, and cases in men and women in their 20s and 30s are quickly replacing those of people who regularly consume tobacco and alcohol, as use of these substances has declined in recent decades. A previous oral cancer diagnosis is also an indication that you are at higher risk for redevelopment. You should speak to your dentist regarding your medical history and other significant factors to establish an appropriate screening schedule.