Two of the most important services you’ll receive from your dentist are an evaluation of your oral health and oral cancer screening. Your oral health is important, as some problems with your teeth and gums can indicate systemic problems elsewhere—or even cause them. An oral cancer screening can mean the difference between life and death.
Oral Cancer Screening
During your regular dental check-up, our dentist will examine your gums, lips, and tongue for any irregularities. Several symptoms could indicate oral cancer is developing and should be evaluated. Some of these symptoms can include:
- Irregular lumps or growths
- Red or white patches
If our dentist or team finds an irregularity, he might suggest a biopsy. This involves removing a piece of tissue from the affected area and having it evaluated. The cells are checked to see if they are cancerous. Some growths in the mouth are benign—meaning that they are not cancerous. If you have a malignant growth, though—one that is cancerous—the faster your treatment begins, the better chance you have of a successful recovery. Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the growth, combined with chemotherapy or radiation to prevent it from growing back.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is relatively rare compared to some other forms of cancer, but can occur in anyone. However, some people are more susceptible than others. You are at a higher risk for oral cancer if you:
- Have a family history of oral or other cancers
- Are a smoker
- Use any other kind of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco
- Are a heavy drinker
Although it’s impossible to avoid genetic factors that could cause cancer, avoiding tobacco products and alcohol can greatly reduce your risk. People can also develop oral cancer without any of the above risk factors.
Regular cancer screening also helps increase your likelihood of recovery. The sooner any cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Come in and see us for your biannual appointment or ask any other questions you may have. Call to schedule an appointment today!