What is Involved in Oral Cancer Screening?
Oral cancer does not get as much attention as some other more common types of cancer like breast cancer or lung cancer. However, 48,250 people per year are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States, and about 1 person will die every hour of every day from the disease.
Oral cancer can appear in the mouth or on the lips, tongue or throat.
Getting regular dental exams and screenings can help you discover the signs of oral cancer early to get the best treatment and improve your odds of beating the disease.
Here’s a little more about what you need to know about oral cancer and exactly what’s involved in the screening:
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Anyone can get oral cancer, but certain people have a higher risk because of their behaviors or things they have experienced. Some of the risk factors for oral cancer include:
- A previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- A history of leukoplakia, which is a thick, white patch that appears in the mouth
- A history of excess sun exposure, which specifically increases the risk of cancer appearing on the lip
- Consumption of alcohol
- Use of tobacco of any kind, including smoking tobacco and chewing tobacco
- Being age 45 or older
Increased risk does not mean that you will get oral cancer. However, it does mean that you should be more diligent about getting regular oral cancer screenings.
Likewise, having none of these risk factors does not mean that you are not at risk of getting oral cancer. You should still get routine screenings to ensure that you catch the signs early enough to get the best treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
You can be an active participant in your own oral health by paying attention to any changes in your mouth, throat or lips that could indicate a problem. Some of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can include:
- A lump (or lumps) in the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat
- Red or white patches on the mouth, lips, or tongue
- Other changes in the color or texture of your tongue, gums, cheeks or other mouth tissues
- Changes in taste
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sores in the mouth that do not heal
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness in the mouth, lips, or throat
Some of these symptoms could indicate other issues, so it is important that you do not self-diagnose. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your Glendale dentist as soon as possible and get a full evaluation.
Oral Cancer Screening and Diagnosis
An oral cancer screening begins with a routine dental exam. Your dentist will look for any of the symptoms listed above, such as discolored patches in the mouth or lumps. Your dentist will also ask you about symptoms you may have experienced, such as changes in taste or bleeding in the mouth.
If you have symptoms, your dentist may order imaging tests like a CT scan or an MRI to look for a tumor or other abnormal growth. If a growth is found, a biopsy will be performed to extract some of the cells and test them to determine if they are cancerous.
If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, you may have to undergo surgery to have the tumor removed, and you may have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate the cancer. Depending on the size of the tumor or the severity of your cancer, you may be able to receive chemotherapy or radiation to shrink the tumor instead of undergoing surgery.
While the thought of having oral cancer may be a scary one, it shouldn’t deter you from getting the screening you need. Early detection and treatment can help you eliminate the cancer and improve your odds of survival. The longer you wait, the less likely the cancer will be to respond to treatment.
Aesthetic Dentistry of Arrowhead in Arizona performs dental exams and oral cancer screenings to ensure top oral health. We provide a complete array of dental services to help you minimize your risk of gum disease and other oral health problems. We also provide cosmetic and restorative dental services, such as braces and dental implants. Call us in Arizona today to develop a plan to get your best smile and to ensure your oral health.
17100 N 67th Ave, Suite 500
Glendale, Arizona 85308
Phone: (623) 979-1515
Fax: (623) 878-1811
Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-5pm