Oral Cancer Screening - What You Should Know About This Important Checkup

April 1, 2020

Oral cancer is estimated to contribute to 30 percent of all the cancer cases worldwide, affecting around 170,000 adults annually, and the numbers are expected to increase in the next five years. Although preventing cancer may not be possible, regular screenings can detect any problems early and increase your chances of surviving.

What is Oral Cancer?

Mouth cancer represents abnormal cells affecting any part of the mouth, whether its tongue, cheeks, gums, lips, and the top of the mouth.

How Can You Tell You Have Oral Cancer?

Mouth cancer is asymptotic in the early stages, meaning you may not notice any symptoms. However, self-examination (especially if you are at risk) and regular dental visits can help detect the lumps, tumors, or abnormal cells early. Nevertheless, some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Lumps, swelling, or bumps in the mouth, lips, and gums
  • White, red, or speckled patches of the mouth
  • Bleeding, persistent soreness and numbness in the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Problems speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Dramatic weight loss

Q. Who Is at Risk of Getting Mouth Cancer?

Although anyone can get oral cancer, some people are more predisposed than others.

  • Gender. Men above 50 years are twice more at risk of getting oral cancer than women
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Family history
  • Exposure to UV rays
  • HPV or Human Papillomavirus

Take note; these factors only include the likelihood of getting cancer. It is possible to get oral cancer without having any of the risk factors. It is estimated 25 percent of people with mouth cancer don’t smoke.

What to Expect During Your Screening?

During your bi-annual dental checkup, our dentist will perform an oral cancer screening. A physical exam is done by feeling and checking for any abnormal cells, growths, lumps, and bumps. Modern imaging techniques, such as MRI and x-ray, may be used to check the spread of cancer cells. If anything is amiss, the dentist may further perform a biopsy or refer you to an oral surgeon.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Oral Cancer Screening?

Yes, there are a few limitations associated with oral cancer tests, and they include:

  • Multiple tests may be done. Mouth cancer tests may not determine which mouth sores are cancerous and those that are benign. The dentist may perform other tests to ascertain what is harmful and which is not.
  • Oral cancer screening can only detect large lesions. Therefore, the small precancerous lesions may not be detected in the early stages.
  • Oral cancer tests cannot prevent cancer. But, they do increase your chances of recovery if cancer is caught early.

What Are the Treatment Options?

If cancer is detected, treatment may be initiated in collaboration with an oral surgeon. Several oral cancer treatment options are available depending on the stage and location of the cancerous cells. Surgery is the primary treatment option to remove the tumor and to reconstruct the mouth.

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are also treatment options. Immunotherapy is ideal for people with advanced oral cancer and is not responding to standard treatment options. Our oral surgeon will choose the perfect treatment and take you through the procedure and risks involved if any.

Is Oral Cancer Preventable?

There is no proven way of preventing oral cancer. However, it is believed a change in your lifestyle can go a long way in reducing your risk of oral cancer.

  • Stop chewing or smoking tobacco as it is the leading cause of oral cancer. Nicotine can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment and makes it harder for the body to recover.
  • Reduce consumption of alcohol
  • Watch your nutrition to boost your immune system
  • Try alternative medicine such as exercise, relaxation, massage therapy, and acupuncture
  • Examine your mouth every month and have regular dental checkups.

Come for an Assessment

Oral cancer is benign in the early stages and may not show any symptoms. Your best chance of increasing your survival chances is to have regular screenings. Come to Scripps Poway Dental Care for an oral cancer screening.

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