Oral cancer screenings, unfortunately, are not very common, in fact, most people never have one! This is why oral cancer detection at an early stage is not very common, and also why we encourage our patients to have a screening as soon as possible.
There are few, if any fundraisers, walks, or campaigns supporting its early treatment, so oral cancer claims one life every day in the United States. Most people wait til it has progressed to an advanced stage, so the mortality rate is high.
You will have a much better chance of beating this type of cancer, like all other forms of the disease, if you realize you are developing signs of it, or know you are at a risk of developing it at an early stage. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer are certainly critical to the ability to cure it!
Therefore, you have a much better chance of beating this form of cancer, the sooner know you are at risk, or you recognize its tell-tale signs.
What all is involved in an oral cancer screening?
Since much of the screening is done visually, we will be looking for
abnormal tissue signs in your mouth, such as changes in teeth positions, rough patches, hard lumps, or white bumps in your gums. Our dentist will also put on dental gloves to feel for, and identify any hard or strange lumps inside the mouth tissue.
Remember, the examination must be thorough, because all areas of the mouth can be impacted by oral cancer. However, you should feel entirely comfortable during its’ entirety, because we guarantee to make it gentle.
How often should I have screenings for oral cancer?
After your first screening exam in our offices, we will let you know the frequency at which future exams will be needed, based on your personal risk factors and what we see while you are here. We may suggest annual, instead of the usual bi-annual screenings if you prove to be at higher risk.
Who is most susceptible to oral cancer?
It used to be more common that men got cancer at a 10:1 ratio over women, and there was a misconception that only older men got oral cancer. Over time though, the habits of women and men as pertains to smoking and drinking became more similar, and so did the statistics! The published ratios now approach 2:1, and recent research has proven that oral cancer can also be caused by some strains of the HPV virus.
This HPV virus can be contacted as early as the teenage years, so that has caused us to change the way we need to look at and screen for oral cancer! Not only can senior men contact this terrible disease at a high rate, but women and teens can as well, and we recommend that all adults for certain, should be screened. If you know you have the HPV virus, drink alcohol, or smoke, then you should definitely be more urgent about this oral cancer screening.
Does our office treat oral cancer?
We help detect it, but no, we do not treat it. Early detection is of critical importance, when it comes to cancer…it can literally save your life! As a general rule we are the most capable of identifying abnormalities in your mouth, because we are the most familiar with how it normally looks. We may perform a biopsy (where a portion of the tissue from your mouth is taken in order to test further), if we see anything that looks cancerous, or even like pre-cancer. We may then refer you directly to an oncologist, in some cases, where they can discuss possible treatment options with you, or perform more tests.
When should you call us?
Well, you are kind of on ‘the front lines‘ yourself…especially when it comes to detecting oral cancer! We recommend a daily ritual, after brushing your teeth, of running your tongue along the roof of your mouth, your gums, and your cheeks. Make a note of any bumps, lumps or rough patches, and then a few days later, do the same thing.
That call to our office should be made immediately, if those same abnormalities you might have discovered only a few days before are still present! They would have already disappeared by now, if they had been because of eating abrasive food or sickness. An examination needs to be scheduled in order to perform an oral cancer screening.
Teeth that have moved for no apparent reason is anther sign that needs to be looked for, because if they are out of place something must have been pushing them. That something turns out to be cancer on occasion.
What can I do to prevent oral cancer?
Historically, the very biggest risk for oral cancer development is the use of smokeless tobacco products. So, to stop chewing tobacco would be the single most important thing you could do. Statistics now show that it can increase your oral cancer risk by as much as 60 times, even though it is less damaging to your lungs!
You should also limit the amount of alcohol you consume, and discontinue smoking any tobacco products. You are certainly at a greater risk if you binge drink, or even if you just drink regularly, but it doesn’t appear that limited quantities of alcohol is dangerous. You should always prevent sunburn, and whenever possible limit your direct exposure to the sun.
You might want to check with your physician to see if you are a candidate for the HPV vaccine, especially if you suspect you might have the virus. Regular oral screening can literally save your life, so please give us a call if you have any questions.