One of the most important tasks that dentists can do for their patients is to provide them with oral cancer screening. It is often a part of a regularly scheduled dental cleaning and it is not something that you want them to overlook. This quick and simple screening can help save your life.
About Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is something that you do not want to neglect. It normally spreads fast and often has no pain associated with it until it reaches the more advanced stages. This is why it usually is not discovered early. At that time, it has likely already metastasized to other organs or parts of your body. Discoveries of oral cancer are made more often (over 80 percent of cases) by dentists than they are by any other medical professional.
Oral Cancer Statistics
In recent years, the number of people being diagnosed with oral cancer is increasing. It is expected to be about 53,000 this year, or around 14 per day. Out of these that are diagnosed, about 10,000 of them will be dead within one year, and almost half of them will be gone within five years.
The reason why it is so fatal is because it spreads fast. There are many blood vessels in the head and neck which helps to spread the disease faster. With a regular screening of oral cancer conducted about every six months – at your regularly scheduled dental cleanings, oral cancer may be spotted early.
Because the disease has such a high mortality rate, it is important that it be discovered as early as possible. This will enable the correct treatment to be given quickly, enabling a better outcome. You will understand that it is even more important when you know that once you have this cancer it is quite possible that you will have a recurrence of it later.
One thing that the dentist will look for during a screening of oral cancer is precancerous lesions. Dentists are trained to recognize them as well as oral cancer. If precancerous lesions are detected, it may be possible to prevent them from becoming cancerous. They can also conduct a brush biopsy and the sample will be sent to a medical lab where it will be analyzed.
Testing for Oral Cancer
Your dentist may use more than one type of test for mouth cancer to determine if it is present. The first thing they will do is to look for any irregularities in your mouth. They will also feel your neck for lumps.
One test that your dentist may use is blue dye. You will be asked to rinse your mouth with it before the oral cancer screening. Another test may involve a special blue light.
It is also possible that you may have an oropharyngeal cancer. This cancer develops in the throat and is nearly impossible for a regularly screening to catch it. If suspected, the dentist may want to use a nasopharyngolaryngoscope. This is a fiber optic cable with a camera on it to view your throat. Before applying it, some anesthetic will be used before it is put into your nose.
People at Risk for Oral Cancer
There are several types of people who have a higher risk of developing oral cancer than others. They include:
- Smoking or using tobacco
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Being over 40 years old
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Considerable exposure to ultraviolet light
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
It is believed that the continuing rise in the number of cases of mouth cancer is largely because of HPV. This virus can lie dormant for over 30 years and then appear suddenly. Most people’s bodies will eliminate it, but some do not. People get HPV in the mouth through oral sex. Before the spread of HPV, most people who got oral cancer did so after they were in their 50’s, now, many of them are in their 20’s and 30’s.
If you are at a greater risk of developing oral cancer, you want to be sure to keep your regularly scheduled dental cleanings. Some dentists will not conduct a screening of oral cancer unless you ask for it. Make it known to the dentist that you are at high risk of developing it, and this should cause them to look a little harder for possible symptoms of the disease.
When to Get Screening
The tests for screening are usually performed when you go to your six-month appointment. However, it you discover a sore in your mouth that lasts more than two weeks, you need to make an appointment with your dentist soon.
If you live in the Ahwatukee, AZ and Phoenix, AZ areas and need to have an oral cancer screening, you can get one at the Imagine Dental offices in Phoenix. The friendly dentists there will provide you with a thorough screening. They also provide a wide range of dental and cosmetic services to give you and your family members great-looking teeth.