Everything You Should Know About Oral Cancer Screening
Be in the know! Like the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry. Detecting early signs of oral cancer will help intervene and address the disease before it progresses to something more complex and improve prognosis.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screening involves a physical and visual exam of the oral cavity (the teeth, the tongue, the lips, beneath the tongue, hard palate (the bony roof of the mouth), the gums and the buccal mucosa (the inside lining of the cheeks and lips) and other connective tissues. It is essential at every new patient comprehensive exam to screen for any abnormalities or pathologies in the intraoral and extraoral cavity.
What is oral cancer? This type of cancer occurs in any part of the mouth (lips, tongue, gums, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth, or inner lining of the cheeks). Always watch out for pain in the mouth or the ears, persistent mouth sores growing in size, discoloration, painful swallowing, chronic hoarseness, non-tender lump in the neck, and chronic sore throats. Make sure you visit your dentist if you are experiencing one of these signs of symptoms!
Why Do You Need Oral Cancer Screening?
With a low survival rate of 60% in 5 years, highly recommended thing you can do is go for a check-up! Oral cancer screening should be part of your wellness to-do list to ensure all types of abnormalities and pathologies are detected early for better prognosis. During your routine dental exam, your dentist at URBN Dental will check for any signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
Oral cancer spreads quickly, therefore it is important to go for a screening at least once a year to ensure your oral health is within normal limits. Oral cancer screening takes just a few minutes so there is no excuse! The fact that you are not feeling any symptoms does not mean you are free from underlying oral cancer or abnormalities. Regular oral cancer screening will provide you with relief to know that you are always screened for early detection for any abnormalities for early management and better prognosis.
How Does Oral Cancer Happen?
The exact and specific cause of oral or mouth cancer isn’t known yet. However, there are some risk factors for oral cancer that you should be wary of. Do you consume tobacco of any kind — either cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pipes, or cigars? Do you consume a lot of liquor? Do you live or work in an area with considerable air or water pollution? These are all risk factors for oral cancer and you need regular oral cancer screening. However, out of these various factors, smoking is the prime guilty party. According to Mouth Cancer Foundation, over 90% of all cases of mouth or oral cancer occur due to the consumption of tobacco. As such, if you want to avoid oral cancer altogether, your best bet is to quite smoking.
Early detection of oral cancer could save your life.
Other less significant risk factors for oral cancer include health and eating habits. Most cases of oral cancer are found in people over the age of 40. Furthermore, it’s commonly exhibited in people who don’t consume enough fibrous fruits and vegetables, which can lead to severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies that make you more susceptible to mouth cancer. Even prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can increase your likelihood of lip or mouth cancer. In recent years, there has also been a sudden outbreak of oral cancers associated with the sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV 16).
When was your last oral cancer screening appointment?
As you can see, oral cancer may happen for a number of reasons, even if the exact cause is still unknown. If you’re unsure about your likelihood of oral cancer, you should remain safe and simply weed out all alcohol and tobacco from your life. Additionally, you should start consuming a healthy and well-balanced meal that provides your body with the nutrients it needs to combat oral cancer. You can also stave off oral cancer by brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste, maintaining optimal oral health, and going for regular dental cleaning appointments and oral cancer screening.
Who is More Susceptible to Needing Oral Cancer Screening?
Cancer occurs when the genetic mutation instructs cells to grow uncontrollably. When left untreated, the cancer spreads from one part of the mouth to other areas which can then spread to other parts of the head and neck and towards the body. Cancer does not discriminate and affect anyone, so it’s crucial to maintain regular oral cancer screening.
Who is more susceptible to needing oral cancer screening? There is no black and white answer to this question. Anyone is susceptible to oral cancer but there are risk factors that makes one more vulnerable to developing abnormalities. If any of your family has been diagnosed with oral cancer in the past, make sure oral cancer screening is performed on you at every recall appointment. Genetic and hereditary links to oral cancer can put you at a higher risk and therefore you should have screenings done more frequently.
The exact cause of oral cancer is still unknown. However, there is evidence that there are risk factors and certain habits that increase the chances of acquiring oral cancer. One risk factor is inherited mutation that may run in the family. Tobacco and alcohol use are two of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer. If you are a smoker or frequently consume alcohol, you are more susceptible to oral cancer and thus will require more frequent oral cancer screenings. Other risk factors include having HPV infection, a diet rich in processed foods, red meats, and fried foods. Constant exposure to UV lights, radiotherapy of the head and neck area and other exposures to harmful chemicals can also lead to development of abnormalities within the oral cavity.
How Do You Treat a Patient Using Oral Cancer Screening?
- Visual exam
During the visual exam, the intraoral and extraoral cavities are examined thoroughly. This includes anything inside your mouth, your nose, neck, face and lips. Prior to screening it is recommended for the patient to remove any dental appliance (dentures, partials, etc.) that might obstruct the examination. The dentist will look for any abnormalities such as swelling, discoloration, asymmetries, ulcerations, etc.
Tabacco use and heavy alcohol use may increase your risk of mouth cancer.
- Physical exam
The dentist will check the cheeks, head, under the chin, jaw, and oral cavity using his gloved hands to see if he can palpate any abnormal masses or nodules. The patient may be asked to do some tasks like swallowing or chewing to see whether there is any pain or discomfort on the throat, teeth or gums.
What are the Symptoms of Someone Who Needs Oral Cancer Screening?
Just like any other disease, oral cancer also comes with numerous signs and symptoms. You should look out for:
- Bleeding sore
- Non-healing sore
- Chronic hoarseness
- Loose teeth
- Painful tongue
- Painful jaw or jaw stiffness
- Painful/difficult swallowing
- Painful/difficult chewing
- peculiar sore throat