Oral Cancer Screening

There was a time when the habits of smoking, multiple partners, alcohol use, and or a family history were the primary risk factors for oral cancer.  That is no longer the case today.  While oral cancer is still a lower prevalence than many other cancers- it’s much harder to find and diagnose, especially when you never look for it.

Cancer is a hungry beast that requires more and more blood to keep it’s rapid growth cycle going.  We use that against the cancer by investigating the mouth with a particular light that blood absorbs.  So, if a cancer is growing below the surface it appears as a dark shadow when all the other tissues reflect the light.  It’s not fool proof, but it allows your dental team to see more and help identify risks and concerns.  The primary goal is to catch it early before it grows and becomes obvious requiring invasive surgery and disfigurement.

Reasons for Screening for Oral Cancer:

  • Family history of cancer
  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Multiple partners
  • Age
  • Peace of mind

How is an oral cancer screen performed?

We look at the outside first and feel for bumps, lumps, and tenderness using both sides of the head to compare.  Then we evaluate the mouth under the tongue, sides fo the tongue, cheeks, and gums for anomalies.  Finally we turn off the overhead light and illuminate the mouth with our screening light and compare with the ambient light review.   

Anything out of the ordinary is confirmed with another reviewer, and if it is deemed worrisome, then a follow up exam is scheduled to allow time for it to heal and resolve on it’s own.  If resolution doesn’t happen a biopsy or referral to an oral surgeon usually happens.  

The mouth is a very busy place and it is constantly being assaulted with chips that dagger, bread that scrapes, medicines that dry it out, and all other sorts of trauma.  It is hard to determine what the cause of a strange lesion could be on the best of days so we offer to look and evaluate and stay diligent on your behalf.

 


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