Oral Cancer Screenings
Of all the cancers that can affect the head and neck, oral cancer is the most infamous. Close to 50,000 patients may be diagnosed with it in a single year, while close to 10,000 may die from it annually. Looked at another way, oral cancer claims roughly one life every hour, every day. This puts it ahead of other serious illnesses, like cervical or skin cancer.
What's more, many of those who will be diagnosed with oral cancer won't receive a diagnosis until the disease has already reached an advanced stage of development. As a result, only half of oral cancer patients can be expected to recover.
All of this explains why Dr. Howe and Dr. Donnelly of Mt. Scott Family Dental strongly recommend that patients receive a routine oral cancer screening.
What Causes Oral Cancer
Certain behaviors can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. The biggest two are tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Constant exposure to sunlight, habitual cheek/lip biting, and poorly-fitting dentures can also contribute. Still more cases have been linked to HPV-16, while a smaller percentage have no identifiable cause.
What Does Oral Cancer Look Like?
When we perform an oral cancer exam, there are certain signs we're looking for. Those signs can include:
- A bleeding sore that doesn't heal easily.
- Discolored oral tissues.
- A spot that looks rough, eroded, or lumpy.
We'll also check for any pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in your mouth or on your lips.
Close to 10 percent of patients will receive an oral cancer diagnosis before they've even noticed any changes to their health. That's another reason routine screenings are so essential—it takes a trained eye to diagnosis oral cancer early. If you notice any changes to your mouth between visits, don't hesitate to contact our office to let us know.
How Often Should I Be Screened for Oral Cancer?
Because we include an oral cancer screening with each checkup, we recommend having two screenings per year. With frequent exams and cleanings, we can help you monitor your smile for any and all changes that require advanced care. At the end of your appointment, we'll discuss our findings with you and recommend a personalized path for greater health and happiness.