If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think much about oral cancer screenings. But the truth is, these screenings can literally be a matter of life or death. According to the American Dental Association, more than 48,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. And of those, only about half will still be alive five years later.
So what exactly is oral cancer? It is any cancer that develops in the mouth or throat. This can include cancers of the lips, tongue, gums, and even the roof of the mouth. Oral cancer is often caught in its early stages during routine dental exams. That’s why it’s so important to see your dentist regularly. During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will look for any signs of cancer, such as sores, red or white patches, or lumps.
If anything suspicious is found, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon or otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) for further evaluation. In some cases, a biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. This is a simple procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the suspicious area and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Most oral cancers are caused by exposure to tobacco products. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff. Alcohol use is also a significant risk factor for oral cancer. People who use both tobacco and alcohol products have an especially high risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors for oral cancer include excessive sun exposure, which can damage the lips; human papillomavirus (HPV) infection; and a family history of the disease.
Fortunately, if caught early, oral cancer is very treatable. The most common treatment method is surgery, which can be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy. So don’t wait – make sure to schedule regular dental checkups so you can be sure to catch any oral health problems, including cancer, early on. It could literally save your life.
An oral cancer screening is a visual and physical examination of your mouth, throat, tongue, and lips for any signs or symptoms of cancer. Your dentist or doctor will look for any changes in the tissue, such as lumps, red or white patches, or sores that don’t heal. They will also feel for any abnormalities in the lymph nodes in your neck.
Oral cancer screenings are important because they can help catch cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. If you have any risk factors for oral cancer, such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption, it’s important to get screened on a regular basis.
Oral cancer can be a serious disease, but again, it is highly treatable when caught early. The best way to catch it early is through regular screenings, which can be done by your dentist. While it may seem like a pain, and an extra expense, getting regular oral cancer screenings could save your life. If you’re due for an oral cancer screening or have any questions about them, don’t hesitate to contact us today at Renova Smiles. We’re happy to help in any way we can!