At your next hygiene appointment, feel free to stick your tongue out at your dentist. Why? Because doing so could be one of the many ways he or she can screen for oral cavity or orophararyngeal cancer.
Aside from regular screenings by a professional hygienist or dentist, it’s important to learn about the symptoms, as well as the different treatment options, available if a problem should exist. Just remember, it’s always best to diagnose and treat any kind of cancer in the earliest stages.
According to the American Cancer Society, almost 40,000 Americans will get cancers in the mouth or throat in 2015, and men are twice as likely as women to develop these diseases. Those who use tobacco or alcohol are at the highest risk. Older people who have experienced frequent sun exposure, have the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV), or exhibit poor oral hygiene, diet, or nutrition habits are all at increased risk for these cancers, as well. Regardless of risk status, oral cancer can unfortunately strike indiscriminately, like all cancers.
The most common symptom of oral cancer or pre-cancer tends to be a sore in your mouth or on your lip that will not heal. Perhaps there is pain in your gums or on your tongue that cannot be alleviated.
Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are most often found on the tongue, around the tonsils, and the top and back of your mouth and throat, as well as the gums and the floor of your mouth.
Overall, you’ll want to be sure to mark any differences in the tissue of your mouth, such as lumps or white or red patches. Any issues that seem more mechanical in nature, like changes in how you chew, swallow, or use your tongue, could suggest a bigger problem, as well.
If two weeks go by and you’re still experiencing these symptoms, please speak to your dentist immediately. He or she will probably want you to come into the office and have the problem area examined. A simple oral cancer screening won’t take very long, and it might just save your life.
At the dentist office, he or she will perform a thorough exam of your mouth, including lips, tongue, and the uppermost regions of the throat. The entire exam should only take about three minutes.
Our dentist is trained with the VELscope® device, and we use it to detect abnormalities that can be overlooked. This wireless handheld scope uses natural tissue fluorescence visualization as part of an overall system designed to provide another layer of coverage. It’s the kind of technology that is helping to make a difference.
If any oral mucosal abnormalities are found during the exam, our dentist may refer you to a physician or other specialist. A more thorough examination may occur at this time that can include a number of different tests. Depending on the accessibility of the suspect area, a biopsy will most likely be taken first.