Nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. This silent disease is the 6th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Fortunately, oral cancer is largely preventable, especially if you take an active role in protecting your oral health. Going to your dentist for an oral cancer screening increases the chances of a good outcome.
When it comes to oral cancer, your dentist is the first line of defense. Oral cancer is often silent and slow. It’s virtually unnoticeable to the naked eye during the early stages. There is no single cause, but the following risk factors make a person more susceptible to developing this form of cancer:
- Use of smokeless tobacco products
- Excessive alcohol consumption (1 drink per day)
- Exposure to the human papillomavirus virus (HPV)
- Genetic predisposition
- Excessive sun exposure
What Happens During An Oral Cancer Screening?
If you are considered high risk, it is recommended to get checked every 6 months. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals age 40 and above have oral cancer screening exams annually. Individuals over 20 should get checked every 2 years.
You might only go to your dentist when it’s time for a dental cleaning. However, it is also important to get screened for oral cancer and other abnormalities. At each semi-annual exam, Dr. Marion will check for any abnormal growths or lumps in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. Other common signs and symptoms of oral cancerinclude:
- Swelling or thickening on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
- White or red patches in the mouth
- Unexplained mouth bleeding
- Numbness or tenderness in the face
- Sores on the face, neck, or mouth that do not heal within two weeks
- Feeling a lump in your throat
- Bad taste in the mouth or bad breath
- Change in voice and bite
- Unexplained weight loss
In addition to Dr. Marion’s visual examination, we recommend an additional instrument be used called a Veloscope. The Veloscope allows our providers to detect any abnormalities before they are able to be seen by the naked eye. The Veloscope uses fluorescence light technology which allows us to into the tissue in the mouth and can detect conditions like oral cancer or pre-malignant dysplasia sooner.
If Dr. Marion notices anything out of the norm, he may have you come back in a few weeks to re-check the area to make sure it wasn’t just an injury or he will refer you to an oral surgeon to have a closer look to determine if a biopsy is needed. In a biopsy, a small tissue sample will be taken from your mouth and analyzed in a lab to check for the presence of abnormal cells.
If the findings do indicate cancer, your doctor will assess the severity of the disease. They assign cancer from stage one to stage four. As with all cancers, stage one is the easiest to treat and has the highest survival rate. Stage one cancer means that the cancer is still relatively small and contained in the organ where it originated.
Examinations and diagnosis by your Dentist are critical in ensuring the cancer is detected early or contained while it remains manageable. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner a patient can start treatment, the less disfigurement from possible surgeries, and the higher the chances of survival.
Oral Cancer Screening In Zelienople, PA
The following are measures to prevent oral cancer:
- Start by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Quit smoking and drink in moderation.
- Set aside time to perform a self-exam at least once a month to examine your mouth in detail.
Even if you don’t find anything wrong during your self-exam, make sure to have regular appointments with your dentist for a professional examination.
For a comprehensive oral cancer screening, visit Marion Smile Center today. As part of our team’s commitment to raising awareness for oral cancer, Dr. Mark Marion and his team will perform oral cancer screenings with fluorescent technology for half the price this September. You can rest easy at the hands of Dr. Marion, who delivers high quality care to countless patients in the Pittsburgh area.
To schedule your next oral cancer screening, call our office today at (724) 452-4300 or fill out our appointment request form online. We look forward to preserving your bright and healthy smile!