It may sound scary at first when we mention oral cancer screening. After all, oral cancer is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that affects thousands of people each year. However, early detection is crucial for successful treatment, so oral cancer screening is essential. When we recommend getting oral cancer screening, we are not suggesting you could have cancer. The screening is a precautionary measure to help you. Learn what to expect during a screening and why it’s vital to prioritize this aspect of your oral health.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can develop in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and throat. A variety of factors can lead to oral cancer, including:
- tobacco use
- excessive alcohol consumption
- exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal (middle part of the throat behind the mouth) cancers in the United States are for 2023:
- About 54,540 new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
- About 11,580 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
Why is early detection so critical?
“Historically, the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.”
“Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second primary tumors.”
Oral cancer screenings are critical because they can detect early signs of the disease, improving the chances of successful treatment.
What happens during an oral cancer screening?
Dr. Yamaguchi will examine your mouth for abnormalities or suspicious areas during an oral cancer screening. This examination includes checking your lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat for lumps, bumps, or discolorations. Using the Oral ID tool, she will then examine your mouth for abnormalities or suspicious areas. The Oral ID tool uses a blue light that provides the dentist an aid in the visualization of oral abnormalities, such as oral cancer and precancer. It can detect abnormalities in the cells of the oral cavity before they become cancerous. The light makes healthy tissue appear dark and makes abnormal tissue appear white. With this tool, she can look for signs of cancer that may not be visible to the naked eye. The screening is painless and only takes a few minutes, but it can be vital to your dental checkup.
Why should you get screened?
Everyone should get an oral cancer screening as part of their regular dental checkup. The American Dental Association recommends that adults have a screening at least once a year, and more often if they have risk factors such as tobacco use or a history of oral cancer. Dr. Yamaguchi can recommend how often you should have a screening based on your individual risk factors. Remember, early detection is key when it comes to oral cancer, so don’t skip your regular dental appointments.
Also, good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups can help catch potential issues early. It’s also important to discuss any possible risk factors with Dr. Yamaguchi.
How can you reduce your risk of developing oral cancer?
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent oral cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. A healthy lifestyle promotes improved oral health and can reduce the risk of oral cancer.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Avoid tobacco products.
- Refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages excessively.
Additionally, practicing good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups can help catch potential issues early.
Unfortunately, oral cancer is on the rise in the United States. However, our new technology for oral screenings allows us to detect cancers much earlier than before, it is painless, and only takes a few minutes. Contact us today to schedule your next dental and oral exam.
Your Friendly Team
Dental Arts & Wellness