Oral Cancer Screening
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer. Annually, approximately 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and about 9,750 deaths occur as a result. These numbers translate to one person dying every hour. These statistics are not encouraging.
Before going too far, let’s briefly discuss what oral cancer is. Oral cancer starts in your mouth or throat. Oral cancer is likely to occur on the:
• The lining of the cheek
• The floor of the mouth
• The roof of the mouth
• Your lips
• On the tongue
Medically, most oral cancers are referred to as squamous cell carcinoma, and are quite aggressive.
Causes Of Oral Cancer
Several factors increase the risk of oral cancer. We cannot do anything about factors like age, gender, genetics, and race/ethnicity. However, other risk factors are lifestyle choices like:
• Tobacco use
• Alcohol use
• Poor nutrition
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco and alcohol use are the most substantial risk factors for oral cancer. For tobacco use, risk depends on the duration and the mode of use. Pipe smoking is likely to cause cancer on the lips. Oral tobacco products like dip, spit, or dissolvable tobacco are considered to increase risk of oral cancer on the cheeks, gums, and the inner surface of the lips.
Heavy alcohol intake increases the chances of oral cancer significantly. To put this into perspective, about 7 out of 10 patients with oral cancer consume alcohol heavily. The risk is even greater if users consume both alcohol and tobacco.
What To Expect During Oral Cancer Screening
As seen above, oral cancer statistics are scary. However, a routine visit to your dentist can go a long way toward reducing your risk. You can request an oral screening as a precautionary measure. Your doctor can also recommend if you are at risk of oral cancer. Are you wondering what to expect when being screened for oral cancer? Please continue reading to learn more.
Oral cancer screening is performed by either a dentist or a doctor. The aim is to look for any swellings, colour patches, or bumps. The oral screening process includes both visual and physical exams. Let’s see what each involves.
The doctor visually examines your face, lips, nose, neck, and the nasal cavity. This can be done while sitting or lying down. If you have any dentures, the doctor will ask you to take them out to examine the tissue underneath.
To get a better view inside the mouth, the doctor will use a light and a mirror. He may also use a tongue depressor to examine the back of your throat. Patients could also be asked to say “Ahh” to expose the back of the mouth, which is ordinarily difficult to see.
The doctor uses his fingers to feel for nodules or masses on your jaws, under the chin, your head and neck, and the nasal region. The procedure is usually done after or during the visual exam. It’s a painless process and therefore, any discomfort could be a potential sign of tumours or swellings.
A doctor may also use other devices to complete the screening procedure. They can use specialized dye to identify unusual cells, which will absorb the dye faster than normal cells.
A thorough oral cancer screening exam can be done in less than five minutes.
Why You Should Get Screened For Oral Cancer
Like every cancer, early detection is pivotal in increasing the success of treatment. When screening for oral cancer, a doctor could identify abnormalities that may signal the presence of cancer. What are these abnormalities, you may ask?
It can be as subtle as an inflamed throat. Other signs include swollen lymph nodes, mouth ulcers, and asymmetries to a sore region. These symptoms will prompt the doctor to carry out a further diagnosis to determine the exact cause. If it’s cancer, treatment begins early, hopefully reducing the need for more invasive treatment options.
How Getting Screened For Cancer Contributes To Good Dental Hygiene
When screening for oral cancer, dental hygienists are not only looking for precancerous conditions but also general oral hygiene. They check for any dental and gum issues and offer treatment options. They also advise various measures to improve general oral hygiene.
Even though inconclusive, studies have shown that oral health plays a significant role in preventing oral cancers. Poor oral health also leads to bad breath and tooth loss. To that end, make it a priority to visit your dentist regularly for an oral screening. It only takes a few minutes allowing you to quickly get on with your day.
If you are a resident of Bradford, Ontario, please schedule a visit with Bradford Family Dentistry. Our dental experts will offer professional oral care beyond your teeth.