There’s a part of your dental exam that you may not have ever realized your dentist was performing: The Oral Cancer Screening. Even if you think oral cancer isn’t something that can affect you – you might be surprised to know that it impacts thousands of “healthy” people in our country each year.
Oral cancer is linked to everything from viruses to sun exposure to tobacco use. Some people develop oral cancer without ever having any risk factors. That’s why it’s essential for us to screen for oral cancer during every exam at Marconi Dental Group. Regardless of whether or not you use tobacco products, drink alcohol, or don’t.
Areas Most at Risk
Some areas inside of the mouth are more likely to have oral cancer than others. The floor of the mouth, sides of the tongue, and soft palate are a few examples. Lymph nodes are another common site that is at risk. Our dentists however, are sure to check all areas in and around your mouth. That includes the soft tissues, muscles and lymph nodes in your mouth, cheeks, face, and neck.
What We’re Looking For
What exactly are we looking for during an oral cancer screening? Simply put: tissues that do not resemble the other tissues around them, or resemble the same structures on the opposite side of the mouth. Most often, cancerous and precancerous tissues have areas with features that look like:
- Red, white or spotted tissues
- Lesions with irregular borders
- Sores that do not heal in a timely manner
- Nodules or lumps
Why Screen So Often?
Precancerous tissues are often not noticed by our patients until they are very advanced. Identifying them sooner gives you the opportunity to experience less invasive treatment. Not finding oral cancer until it is advanced is a dangerous situation to put you in. For the most effective treatment, cancer needs to be diagnosed at an early stage. By regularly monitoring your oral tissues, we can pinpoint changes that occur between your dental visits. If something abnormal is noted, we’ll usually wait a couple of weeks to reassess it.
Biopsies and Lab analysis
When a suspicious area or a location appears to be cancerous, we will conduct a biopsy. Biopsies can come in a few different forms. Some are done with a small brush, while others are more surgically oriented. The cells gathered during the biopsy are sent to a lab for microscopic analysis. Depending on the findings, we will continue to monitor the area or recommend a surgical consult.
Treatment for Oral Cancer
As previously mentioned, the treatment for oral cancer is much more effective when cancer can be diagnosed as early as possible. Waiting until it is advanced will make treatments more dramatic and life altering. Treatments for oral cancer usually involve surgical removal and/or radiation/chemotherapy.
One of the best ways to improve your prognosis is to schedule a dental exam with Marconi Dental Group every 6 months. Not only do we screen for dental diseases, we’re taking steps to protect your life.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Schedule your dental exam today.