Oral Cancer Screening: Early Detection and Treatment

Oral Cancer Screening: Early Detection and Treatment

Jun 30, 2023

Oral cancer is a potentially life-threatening condition that affects more than 50,000 Americans yearly. In its early stages, oral cancer may not cause any significant symptoms, causing it to develop undetected.

Fortunately, oral cancer is easy to manage or treat when caught early on. That’s where routine oral cancer screenings come in. In this article, let’s discuss oral cancer, its symptoms, and risks, how oral cancer screening works, and its benefits.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral or mouth cancer is cancer that develops in the oral cavity. Oral cancer can develop in the throat, gums, inside of cheeks, the base of the tongue, tonsils, lips, tongue, roof, and floor of the mouth, tonsils, and mouth. If left undetected for long, it can spread to other body parts like the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes, making it difficult or impossible to control.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

  • Persistent mouth sores that don’t heal
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Persistent hoarseness or sore throat
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Swelling, lumps, or lesions in the neck or mouth
  • Changes in how your dentures or fridges fit
  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Mouth or oral pain
  • Mouth, facial, or ear pain

Seek oral cancer treatment immediately if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Below are common factors that can increase your risk of oral cancer:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) virus
  • Excessive sun exposure (lip cancer)
  • Old age
  • Being male
  • Family history
  • Poor lifestyle habits

Avoiding these factors can help reduce your risk of oral cancer.

What’s an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer screening is an oral exam of the oral cavity used to check for abnormal cells or lesions in the mouth, neck, or throat that may indicate the presence of oral cancer. This allows for early detection of oral cancer, where there’s a better chance of successful treatment and recovery.

How Does Oral Cancer Work?

Oral cancer screening is a quick and painless procedure that can be performed during regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Here is what to expect during the screening procedure:

The dentist will review your medical history, including previous and current oral and health issues, history of tobacco and alcohol use, family history of oral cancer, HPV infections, and much more.

Then, your dentist or healthcare provider will check your mouth, gums, cheeks, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer. They can use various oral cancer screening methods and tools like mirrors and X-rays to perform the examination.

If the dentist identifies any suspicious lumps or areas in the mouth, they can recommend a biopsy. This involves removing a small tissue in the affected area and using it for further analysis. If any issues are identified, the dentist can refer you to another dental specialist for further evaluation and treatment.

Benefits of Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer screening has several benefits, including:

  • Early detection: Oral cancer screenings help detect early cancer in its early stages when treatment is more treatable and there’s a higher chance of full recovery.
  • Prevention: Oral cancer screening can identify factors and lifestyle habits like smoking, alcohol abuse, and HPV. Avoiding these factors can reduce the risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Education: Oral cancer screening offers an opportunity for your dentist to educate you about oral cancer, its causes, symptoms, risk factors, and preventive measures.
  • Peace of mind: Oral cancer screening helps you understand your oral health better and provide peace of mind that you don’t have cancer.

How to lower your risk of oral cancer

Fortunately, there are ways how you can reduce your risk of oral cancer, including:

  • Avoid smoking: If you’re struggling to quit, you can try strategies such as nicotine prescription medications and replacement therapy.
  • Reduce alcohol abuse: If you must take alcohol, do it in moderation.
  • Practice safe sex: To avoid HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases, practice safe sex, like using condoms.
  • Eat a healthier diet: Eat nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Limit your intake of processed and sugary items.
  • Reduce excessive sun exposure: Wear protective clothing and hats when going or working outdoors, and use lip balm with SPF to reduce your risk of lip and skin cancer.

Schedule Your Next Oral Cancer Screenings in Raynham, MA

For more information about oral cancer and regular oral cancer screenings, contact and book a dentist appointment at Raynham Dental Group, the Office of Dr. Michael Scanlon.

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