Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer typically does not get as much attention as other types of cancer, but that does not mean that detection and treatment are any less important. Oral cancer can be deadly, especially when not found and treated early on. The problem is though that you might not ever know anything is wrong until oral cancer gets worse. The later oral cancer is treated, the lower the chances of survival. At Fern Creek Dentistry, we can help to detect oral cancer early with oral cancer screenings.
What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?
Oral cancer screenings are simple and painless. It’s a part of your regular oral exams. As we look over you, we also take a close look at the other soft tissues in your mouth. We look over your tongue, gums, cheeks, and other soft tissues, looking for any unusual growths or patches. We also take a look at your face and feel your neck for lumps.
What’s My Risk?
There are certain factors that leave you at a greater risk for oral cancer. Those who smoke or use other tobacco products are typically at the highest risk, as are those who drink large amounts of alcohol. Other factors that leave you at a higher risk include your age, your sex, and your family history. Those who have been exposed to certain strains of HPV are also at a greater risk. Just because you do not have any of these risk factors, though, this does not mean that you don’t need oral cancer screenings. Screenings are typically done annually starting at around the age of 18.
What Types of Tests are Done to Diagnose Oral Cancer?
While we can detect signs of oral cancer, the only way to diagnose it for certain is with testing. One of the most common tests for oral cancer is what is called a soft tissue biopsy. This process involves removing a portion of the growth to look at it under the microscope. There are a few different types of biopsies, including incisional, excisional, and brush. Incisional and excisional biopsies involve surgically removing some or all of the growth. A brush biopsy is a non-surgical option that involves using a brushlike instrument to scrub cells from the growth.
There are other types of testing that may be done as well. These tests include fine needle aspiration, CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs. Blood testing may also be ordered. While a blood test cannot diagnose oral cancer, it can assess your general health before any treatment. It can also suggest that the cancer has spread.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Oral Cancer?
There is no surefire way to prevent the development of oral cancer. Knowing your risk factors, and taking action to reduce them, can be a start, however. For instance, quitting smoking can help to reduce your risk. In addition to monitoring your risk factors, routine dental exams are also highly recommended. Oral cancer screenings help to find the early warning signs that you might not know are there, which then allows for early diagnosis and more successful treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding oral cancer or oral cancer screenings, we are here to help. Call Fern Creek Dentistry at (704) 380-9555 today to learn more.