Like most cancers, oral cancer is a potentially life-threatening condition affecting thousands worldwide. In 2021, the American Cancer Society reported that approximately 54,010 new oral and oropharyngeal cancer cancers were diagnosed.
Oral cancer can lead to severe complications, including death, when not detected early. That alone highlights the need for early detection and intervention of oral cancer. Since oral cancer can develop gradually over many years, regular oral cancer screenings can be useful in identifying and enabling early treatment for oral cancer detection.
In this guide, let’s explore what oral cancer screenings entail, who should have them, how often you should get screened, what to expect during the screening, and the benefits of regular screenings.
What are Oral Cancer Screenings?
Oral cancer screening is a comprehensive oral examination that seeks to check for early signs or symptoms of oral cancer. The screening aims to detect abnormal or suspicious tissues or lesions in the oral cavity and oropharynx, including the gums, tongue, lips, throat, cheeks, and floor and roof of the mouth. Most dentists perform oral cancer screenings as part of routine dental checkups.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Like most health problems, oral cancer develops slowly and undetected. Knowing oral cancer’s warning signs and symptoms can help you know when to seek prompt medical care for proper professional diagnosis and treatment. Common signs to watch out for include:
- Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, or mouth lining
- Unexplainable bleeding in the mouth or throat
- Persistent mouth sores or ulcers that don’t heal within two weeks
- Lumps, thickening, or rough spots of the tissues in the mouth
- Changes in voice, such as harness
- Numbness, pain, or tenderness in the lips or mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or opening the mouth
- Persistent sore throat or dry mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- Changes in how teeth or dentures fit properly
- Dramatic or unexplained weight loss
Visit our dental clinic in Knoxville or visit a dentist near you if you have these symptoms. However, it’s worth noting that these symptoms don’t always indicate oral cancer. However, it’s essential to have them checked out by medical professionals.
Who Should Get Regular Oral Cancer Screenings?
Generally, routine oral cancer screenings benefit everyone, regardless of age, gender, and other factors. However, certain individuals may have a higher risk of oral cancer due to certain factors, including:
- Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco and cigar and cigarette smoking.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use and alcohol abuse
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Prolonged sun exposure can cause lip cancer
- Age. The majority of cancer develops in individuals above 40 years.
- Being male
- Poor oral hygiene and health
- Family history of oral cancer or other types of cancers
- Previous history of oral cancer
- Avoiding these factors can help lower your risk of developing oral cancer.
How Often Should You Get Screened?
Generally, medical experts recommend having oral cancer screening at least once yearly. However, individuals with higher risk factors like smoking and a family history of oral cancer may require more frequent screenings. Visit our dentist in 37919 to determine the most appropriate screening schedule based on your needs.
The Benefits of Regular Oral Cancer Screenings
Below are the primary benefits of having routine oral cancer screenings:
- Early detection and treatment. Routine screenings increase the chances of identifying early signs of oral cancer when most treatable. Late diagnosis can be difficult to manage and can even lead to death.
- Prevention of oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings can help detect abnormalities that can develop into oral cancer or other serious conditions. It allows for prompt treatment, preventing the development of oral cancer and other conditions.
- Increased survival rate. The survival rate is 85-95% when oral cancer is detected early on. The survival rate decreases with later diagnosis. Regular screenings are critical for early detection and better oral cancer survival rates.
- Peace of mind. Regular oral cancer screenings give you an overview of your oral health, giving you peace of mind knowing you don’t have potential risks.
- Comprehensive oral health examination. Since an oral cancer screening involves a thorough oral cavity examination, the dentist also checks for signs of other dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease, bruxism, or TMJ. Early detection of these issues also allows prompt intervention, preventing future dental complications.
Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect
The process typically involves:
- Medical history. The dentist will review your medical history, including any oral or health issues you have or had.
- Visual examination. The dentist near me then visually examines your oral cavity, covering the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, palate, throat, and other tissues, for signs of oral cancer, like sores or lumps.
- Physical examination. The dentist can use various dental tools to palpate or touch various mouth tissues, check for unusual lumps, pain, or tenderness, and sell.
- Additional tests. If the dentist identifies suspicious or abnormal tissues, they can recommend additional tests like biopsies for further evaluation.
Are you ready to schedule your next oral cancer screening? Contact TLC Dental Care to book your appointment with our dentist in Knoxville.