We are taught early in life how important it is to get regular physical examinations. Women are reminded to get their mammograms and men to have their prostates checked. As part of your overall health, oral cancer screening should be a part of your regular preventative health care protocol. The purpose of this exam is to look for any signs of precancerous or cancerous conditions of your mouth. By identifying oral cancer early on – the better the chance to cure it. Oral cancer screening is usually performed by your dentist.
During your regularly scheduled dental examination – your dentist will carefully examine your mouth and tongue. There are certain factors that increase the risk of oral cancer.
Any of these risk factors may increase your risk of developing oral cancer. You can reduce the risk by eliminating alcohol and tobacco use as well as limiting sun exposure. Make sure your dentist is aware of any of these risk factors.
Your dentist will check each part of your mouth carefully using a light. Most oral examinations are done with variations to these types of exams:
As part of an oral cancer screening – your dentist will palpate your neck to identify any enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph node enlargement could be a sign of an infection or perhaps something more serious. Your tonsillar area will also be examined to see if there is any redness or any unusual lumps.
Any of the areas of your mouth can be the site of a developing oral lesion or cancer.
If your dentist sees anything suspicious during your oral cancer screening – a biopsy may be taken. Many times, even unusual lumps or discolored patches are biopsied and are found to be benign, or noncancerous. In the case of a cancer diagnosis – your dental professional will lead you to the appropriate treatment.
The best way to avoid cancer of any kind – is to make sure you receive preventative care on a regular basis as recommended by all of your healthcare providers. If you haven’t had an oral cancer screening as recommended by your dentist, make the time to schedule an appointment soon.