That “C” word – cancer – can cause some uneasiness just hearing it. It is associated with so many negative experiences and feelings. As medical technology and treatment options advance, cancer that is detected in its beginning stages can often be treated successfully.
Oral cancer screenings are now offered by dentists as a means of prevention. Their goal is to detect the signs of cancer early before it progresses. And it only takes a few minutes of your time while in the office. In fact, your dentist and hygienist have probably been doing oral cancer screenings for years without you even realizing it!
How Oral Cancer Screening Works
As we said, oral cancer screening only takes a few minutes. Your dentist will listen to your voice, looking for any abnormally hoarse or raspy sound. Then, using a bright light, the dentist will physically examine your entire oral cavity, including your tonsils, throat, lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and more, looking for any lesions.
You may be asked to turn your head in different ways for your dentist to get clear visibility of all areas. And he or she may begin feeling around your neck area for anything that doesn’t feel right. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to make sounds or breathe in different ways, too, as this helps determine whether or not everything is working as it should be.
Finally, the exam will finish up with your dentist using a fiber optic tool that shows areas not visible to the naked eye.
It’s all quick and painless – and potentially life-saving.
Types of Oral Cancer
When you hear the words oral cancer, you likely just assume it is some type of cancer that invades your mouth. And, while you are not wrong, oral cancer is actually an umbrella term for multiple different types of cancer. These include:
- Throat cancer
- Cancer of the gums
- Cancer of the tongue
- Cancer of the lips
Risk Factors of Oral Cancer
While the overall reason to get an oral cancer screening is to detect cancer in your mouth, there are some risk factors that you should pay attention to. Anyone can get oral cancer despite the risk factors – and should monitor their health with regular screenings. However, if you have any of the following risk factors, then you want to make oral cancer screenings a priority.
- Regularly use (or have used) tobacco products, including snuff, chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars, or cigarettes.
- Heavy use of alcohol.
- Significant sun exposure.
- A diagnosis of Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- Previous diagnosis of some type of oral cancer.
Common Signs or Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Many times, getting regular oral cancer screenings can catch cancer before it causes any signs or symptoms. However, just in case, it is good to be informed. Below you will find a list of the most common signs and symptoms of the different types of oral cancer.
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth.
- Ear pain.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or otherwise moving the jaw.
- Difficulty moving the tongue.
- Patches in the mouth that are red, white, or a combination of the two.
- Lumps, bumps, crusts, swollen or thick areas within the mouth.
Keep in mind that signs and symptoms may vary from person to person. And that some of these symptoms are also symptoms of other conditions that are not cancer-related. If you notice any of the above, it is important to seek help from your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
Oral Cancer Screening at Holzinger Periodontics & Dental Implants
The dental team at Holzinger Periodontics & Dental Implants cares for their patients. And they strive to promote oral care and wellness from all aspects – including oral cancer screenings.
To learn more about these screenings, contact our office at one of our convenient locations below:
Or, request an appointment online.