Early detection is the strongest tool professionals have in fighting cancer. For dentists, the same goes for finding oral cancer and its early signs. Diagnosing oral cancer comes down to regular visits with our office, as well as letting us know if you are experiencing out of the ordinary symptoms. Things like bleeding, pain, dysphagia or otalgia can point to major concern, and it is our job to look into these things to help detect oral cancer in our patients. Through an examination of the mouth and neck, our dentists can identify the risk of cancer within just minutes. This short exam saves lives.
Cancer is something that affects many Americans, and many of us know someone who has or had cancer. Oral cancer is especially dangerous because it’s usually found once it is in its late stages. It can be caught much sooner by getting checked for cancer or symptoms of cancer by your dentist. The best way to check for cancer is to take the initiative and watch for symptoms, as well as visit your dentist regularly.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Sores in mouth that take more than 2 weeks to heal
- Red, white or blue patches in the mouth
- Lumps in the mouth, particularly in the cheeks
- Numbness in mouth that seems new or sudden
- Swelling that changes the fit of your dentures
These symptoms could be something else, but because they are tied to oral cancer, it is best to come see us to make sure.
Risk Factors that increase the possibility of oral cancer include:
- Regular use of alcohol and tobacco
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Slight influence of genetics and family history
In most cases, adults with oral cancer are regular users of either tobacco or alcohol. In the past, older patients were usually the ones with oral cancer, but HPV is causing cancer for young people and non-users of tobacco and alcohol. This means that non-smokers, as well as young adults, should be regularly screened for oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Screening – What to Expect:
- Check face for asymmetry as well as bruising and discoloration
- Palpate lymphatic chains to identify any growths or stagnant substances
- Check the lips on the inside and out
- Monitor the cheeks and their size and structure from inside and out
- Take swabs of the tongue from the inside sides and underneath
- Examine the bottom of the mouth
- If still present, swab tonsils for any extra substances