Oral Cancer Screening
The number of diagnosed cases of oral or throat cancer is approximately 50,000 individuals, and 13,500 deaths per year in the US alone. 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. Best prevention: see your dentist for regular check-ups which should include an oral cancer screening every time.
Oral cancer is the largest group of head and neck cancers. It can affect any region inside your mouth, including your lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, palate, or near the entrance of your throat. When it comes to oral cancer, early detection and treatment are crucial. However, the earliest symptoms are difficult, even impossible to detect. As a result, cancer often does not get detected until it has advanced, and is more difficult to treat. At Myers Dental, we can help to detect the early stages with regular oral cancer screenings.
What are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
Anyone can develop oral cancer. There are several factors that can increase your risk. These factors include
- Smoking. Cigarettes, and other tobacco products, have numerous chemicals that enter through your mouth. These products can significantly increase your risk.
- Drinking. The occasional drink may not have any impact, but excessive drinking can.
- HPV. There are multiple strains of HPV, or human papilloma virus. A few of these strains are associated with oral cancer. HPV16 has the strongest link.
- Family history. If you have close blood relatives, such as a parent, who has had oral cancer, your risk is higher.
- Your age. Older individuals are more likely to develop oral cancer, and men are more likely than women. Men over the age of 55 have the greatest risk.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The earliest symptoms of oral cancer are often very difficult to detect, which often leads to the disease not being caught until it has progressed. We are trained in detecting signs of oral cancer in its earliest stages, which can help you to get the treatment you need right away. However, oral cancer does not often conveniently wait for your next exam to show up. Knowing what signs to look for can help you take action right away.
- Sores or ulcers that will not heal.
- Red or white patches on your intraoral tissues.
- Unusual growths or lumps.
- Trouble chewing, speaking or swallowing.
- A change in your bite.
- Feeling numbness in your chin or jaw.
How is Oral Cancer Detected?
During your routine dental visits, we look over your intraoral tissues, checking for any signs and symptoms that could point to oral cancer. In the event that we do find something unusual, a closer exam is then scheduled. During this exam, not only do we take a close look at the abnormality, but we also take dental X-rays.
An important diagnostic tool for determining the presence of oral cancer is a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a small portion of the abnormality from your mouth for closer examination under a microscope. There are a few different types of biopsies that can be performed, including incisional, excisional, punch, and brush. Under the microscope, we can see the cells of the tissue sample, and determine the presence of precancerous and cancerous cells. If we do find oral cancer, we can then help you to get the appropriate treatment that you need right away.
Oral cancer screenings are a part of your routine dental exams. With early detection of oral cancer, there is a much greater chance of successful treatment, restoring your quality of life. For more information on oral cancer screenings, call Myers Dental at (512) 506-9889 today. Please contact us if you have any questions.