How to Screen for Oral Cancer
A dental professional performs an oral cancer screening to determine if you have cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. Oral cancer screenings aim to detect mouth cancer early, when treatment may be more successful.
Routine dental visits at Wetherill Family Dentistry in Wilmington include a screening for oral cancer by our dentist. Dr. Wetherill may perform other tests to help identify any abnormal cells in your mouth. After the oral exam, Dr. Wetherill may still recommend a further oral exam and biopsy by an oral surgeon, if necessary.
Risk Factors For Oral Cancer
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
- The consumption of any form of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc.
- Use of alcohol
- Previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- Excessive sun exposure (which increases the risk of lip cancer)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) can also pose an oral cancer risk, as can an inadequate diet of fruits and vegetables.
Benefits of Routine Screenings
By detecting oral cancers early, you may receive better treatment and prevent yourself or a loved one from becoming a statistic. For 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates the following for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the U.S.:
- Around 54,010 new cases of the oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer were reported
- Approximately 10,850 deaths were caused by oral cancer
The Procedure for Oral Cancer Screenings
There is no preparation required on your part for an oral cancer screening. During your routine dental visit at Wetherill Family Dentistry, Dr. Wetherill will conduct an oral cancer screening as part of his examination.
Looking at your lips and inside your mouth allows Dr. Wetherill to examine your oral tissues quickly. Dr. Wetherill will examine your gums, the inside of your cheeks, and the sides and bottom of your tongue. In addition, he will examine the floor and roof of your mouth.
Oral cancer symptoms: What are they?
When these signs and symptoms do not subside after two weeks, you should see our dentist:
- A persistent soreness or irritation
- White or red patches
- Numbness or pain in the lips or mouth
- The thickening, crusting, or eroded area of a lump
- An inability to chew, swallow, speak or move your tongue or jaw
- Changes in your bite when you close your mouth
- Changes in voice or hoarseness
- Persistent sore throat
Are Oral Screenings Enough To Detect A Problem?
Oral cancer screening could lead to additional tests. Sores in the mouth are common, and the majority of these sores are not cancerous. A visual oral exam cannot conclusively distinguish between some cancerous and non-cancerous sores. Biopsies are the gold standard for determining whether a lesion is cancerous. During a biopsy, abnormal cells are removed and tested for cancer.
It’s crucial to understand that not all mouth cancers can be detected through oral cancer screening. Small cancer or precancerous lesions could go undetected if there is no obvious indication of abnormal cells in your mouth. You may be tested further to determine the cause of a sore. Should Dr. Wetherill find anything in your dental exam that he feels merits further evaluation, he will refer you to a specialist for biopsy.
Ready for Your Oral Cancer Screening?
Contact Wetherill Family Dentistry today to learn more about oral cancer screenings and find out how crucial a screening can be to detecting cancer before it is too late.