Oral Cancer Screening
Nearly 10,000 people will have their lives cut unexpectedly short this year due to oral cancer. It has a tragically poor five-year survival rate, and it will claim the lives of half of the people who were diagnosed with it this year.
What makes oral cancer so deadly, however, is not because this cancer is necessarily more lethal than other cancers. It is because oral cancer is rarely caught before it has spread and is still at a point that it can be treated. Detecting oral cancer on your own is very difficult, which is why you need to schedule regular appointments with us here at Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry to get an early diagnosis and better outcome.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can grow undetected for a very long time, and its symptoms can be hard to pick up on without the aid of a medical professional. We have the skill and the training to quickly identify and diagnose oral cancer, which can help you get the prompt treatment you may need if we do detect it during your appointment with us.
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in your mouth. This includes on your tongue, your gums, your soft palate, and on your tonsils. It can also be hidden underneath your tongue, on your cheeks, your lips, and in the back of your mouth. Some of the early signs of oral cancer include a sore in your mouth that does not seem to want to heal. These sores can be red or white and may or may not bleed.
Pain in your mouth or even in your ear may also indicate oral cancer. Problems with swallowing, or hoarseness or the feeling of a “lump” in your throat, can also be a sign of oral cancer. The presence of a mass or a bump may also mean you might have oral cancer.
Who is at Risk?
Risk factors for oral cancer include genetics and lifestyle. Sun exposure to the face can cause oral cancer. Tobacco products (such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco) and alcohol can also increase your risk of developing oral cancer. A growing number of people are also getting oral cancer due to the human papilloma virus (HPV). A weakened immune system may also increase your risk.
What Happens at an Oral Cancer Screening?
When you come in for an oral cancer screening, we will start by taking your medical history. If you have observed anything of concern to you, please let us know so we can take a closer look during your screening. We will thoroughly assess all areas of your mouth and carefully inspect all surfaces to determine if there are any areas of concern that need further evaluation. We will also palpitate (gently press) against your face and jaw to look for any masses or growths.
If we do find anything suspicious during your screening, we will take a sample of the area and send it to our lab for a biopsy. We may also recommend a follow-up appointment to see if the suspicious spot has changed or not. If we do determine that you have oral cancer, we will discuss your treatment options with you, to help ensure your best possible prognosis.
It is vital that you get a dental checkup with us every six months. Not only will we clean your teeth, but we will also look for any signs of bigger problems like oral cancer. If it has been longer than six months since your last exam, or you would like to learn more about oral cancer, please give us here at Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry a call today at (803) 310-4707!