Recognizing Early Signs to Help Maintain Health
An oral cancer screening is when your dentist looks for the early signs of cancer before a patient begins to exhibit any symptoms. The earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat the malignancy. Though oral cancer may not be as common as some other kinds of cancers, it is still extremely dangerous, especially since it is usually not identified until it has reached its advanced stages.
Having oral cancer screenings early on in pediatric care, as well as into adulthood is essential to guarantee that your mouth is cancer free.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Similar to any disease, there are a number of factors that place you at a higher risk for developing oral cancer, such as:
- Tobacco use
- A Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) diagnosis
- Gender (Men are twice as likely to have oral cancer than women)
- Age (55+)
- Heavy alcohol use
- Chronic exposure to the sun
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Some symptoms that may indicate oral cancer include:
- Swelling in your neck
- White or red patch on the inside of your mouth
- Persistent mouth sore that does not heal
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Chronic sore throat
- Trouble moving your jaw or tongue
- Mouth or ear pain
- Weight loss
Oral Cancer Screening Steps
There are many ways that your dentist will screen for the presence of oral cancer.
- Your dentist will examine the sides and bottom of your tongue, your lips, and the interior of your cheeks to look for any white or red patches and lumps.
- The roof of your mouth will be inspected for any softness, lumps, and white or red patches.
- Your dentist will palpate your neck to check for any enlarged lymph nodes.
- Your tonsils will be examined by your dentist to look for symmetry, enlargement, redness or unusual bumps.
- Your dentist may use an oral brush biopsy, which painlessly removes cells for testing.