How Oral Cancer Screening Works

Jan 19, 2017

The thought of oral cancer can be very unsettling. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, this type of cancer is not unusual. Over nine and a half thousand lives are claimed by squamous cell carcinoma annually. Nearly 50 thousand cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Many people who have survived oral cancer live with a variety of issues as a result. The ability to chew, swallow, speak and in some instances even breathe can be impacted. There are also the psychological adjustments of living with an altered appearance. Early diagnosis through oral cancer screening can eliminate much of the pain and anguish associated with oral cancer.

Early Diagnosis is Key

Lack of public awareness is one factor that affects the rates of morbidity. Less than 20% of the general population has oral cancer screening on a regular basis. Ironically, an exam that can take less than 5 minutes can save your life when the cancer is caught in the initial stages of development. Treating the disease successfully depends on finding it early enough. In fact, the chances of surviving oral cancer are between 80 to 90% with early diagnosis.

Risk Factors

As with most cancers, some people are more vulnerable to acquiring it than others. Tobacco users, either smokers or those who use smokeless tobacco, are at greater risk. People who consume alcohol are also at a high risk. There is also evidence that indicates exposure to the HPV-16 virus also increases the risk. This is the same virus that is responsible for cervical cancers in females. Less than 7% of those diagnosed with oral cancers have no identifiable cause for the disease. It is thought that this group may have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

The Oral Cancer Screening

This simple screening does not usually require any extensive, invasive equipment. Palpation and inspection of the soft tissues are the basics of an oral cancer screening in the dental office. Your dentist will check your face, mouth, and throat for any abnormalities, areas of swelling, and lumps. Palpating around your cheeks, lips, and throat can reveal bumps and lumps that may not be readily visible. Gauze will be used to lift your tongue so the dentist can check under and around it. Both your hard and soft palate will be checked, as well as the floor of your mouth. Any ulcerated, red, or white spots will be noted along with rough areas, asymmetry, or growths.

The oral cancer screening is painless and only takes a few minutes to perform. This quick and easy test can save your life. At Spring Cypress Dental we care about each patient’s well-being. This is why we include an oral cancer screening as part of our comprehensive dental exam. Oral cancers are among the most curable. Don’t settle for less than the best when it comes to your oral health. Be sure to have an oral cancer screening with your regular dental exam.


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