The incidence of oral cancer has been on the rise and it has now crept into the younger demographic as well with the rise in the prevalence of HPV. 48,250 cases of Oral Cancer are reported every year in the United States and 9,575 out of these people die. The good news is, 84% of the oral cancer cases can be diagnosed early on. People who run a high risk of oral cancer will benefit more from an oral cancer screening. The high risk group includes people who:
- Use tobacco and tobacco products like cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chew tobacco.
- Exhibit excessive use of alcohol
- Have been diagnosed with oral cancer before
- Have HPV
Why is it important to get screened for Oral Cancer?
It is recommended by the American Dental Association that you should get screened for oral cancer along with your periodic oral exams. The goal is that cancer or precancerous lesions be detected early on, so that there is a better chance at cure.
A single screening in healthy people may not prove anything, but the dentist can also suggest further examinations if you have exhibited any risk factors.
- 30% of the oral cancers are rooted in the tongue, 17% of them in the lip (because of high sun exposure), and 14% occur in the floor of the mouth.
- A good systematic and thorough examination can hardly take a few minutes but can enable early detection and cure of cancer.
- A systematic approach combining visual and tactical screening along with the use of advanced technology like the VELscope, eliminates the errors of omission in diagnosis.
What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening?
Don’t worry if you’ve to undergo an oral cancer screening. The procedure is painless and your dentist would be looking at all the possibilities thoroughly.
During an oral cancer screening visit your dentist will do the following.
- Conduct a physical examination inspecting the outside and inside of your cheeks and gums.
- Inspect the floor and the roof of your mouth
- Inspect the lymph nodes of our jaw and neck
- Examine your lips, salivary glands, and TMJ
- Look for signs of asymmetry or swelling on your face
- Pull out and thoroughly inspect your tongue and the back of your mouth
- Take history of smoking, drinking, lifestyle and any specific conditions you might have or have had
Screening should be performed every six months!
The death rate of oral cancer patients is higher than that of the cancers we regularly hear about like cervical cancer, thyroid or skin cancer. 1 in 4 cases of oral cancer occurs in patients who do not exhibit any risk factors.
A good dentist will explain to you why the screening is important and explain about the screening procedure in advance. If your dentist doesn’t perform a check every six months, be proactive and ask for one yourself.