What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral Cancer ScreeningThe Oral Cancer Foundation states that less than 15 percent of those who regularly visit the dentist report having an oral cancer screening. Surprising, since the best way to combat cancer is from early detection and treatment.  The foundation is championing a cause to educate communities about oral cancer.  Have you had an oral cancer screening before? If not, learn what to expect during an oral cancer screening and why they are important.


The Oral Cancer Foundation Calls for Action

The Oral Cancer Foundation states that less than 15 percent of those who regularly visit the dentist report having an oral cancer screening.  This is an extremely low percentage considering that the best way to combat cancer is from early detection and treatment. The Oral Cancer Foundation is reaching out to communities near and far with education and awareness efforts about oral cancer.  Their goal is to increase the conversations about this disease to reduce the suffering, permanent damage, disfigurement and death it causes. Their education and oral cancer community awareness campaign calls on dentists to screen patients for oral cancer at every examination to help with early detection and treatment efforts.

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

Unlike many other cancers, oral cancer is easily detectable so you don’t need an invasive examination. Typically, oral lesions are in plain sight.  In most instances, oral cancer can be detected in a 3-5 minute, painless examination.  Finding oral cancer early makes this disease highly treatable and survivable.  The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that 75 percent of all head and neck cancers begin in the oral cavity. Niles Family Dentistry is committed to helping with the effort to spread oral cancer awareness to our community with annual screening and self-checks. By scheduling your regular 6-month examinations in our office, you will be sure to receive a screening twice a year. The foundation for a healthy mouth is prevention and proactive attitudes on healthy habits and practices.

Who is at Risk for Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a disease that can strike anyone. Some risk factors that have been proven to increase your susceptibility are:  

  • Age. Oral cancers increases with age.
  • Gender.  Men are also twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women, with most people being over the age of 55.
  • Sun exposure. Prolonged exposure to sunlight (lip cancers)
  • Your Diet. Diets low in fruits and vegetables have been linked to oral cancer.
  • Genetics. Inherited genetic mutations
  • Human Papilloma Viruses (or HPV). The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is from HPV.
  • Substance abuse. Tobacco use, and heavy alcohol use can increase your risk for oral cancer.  For people who smoke and drink heavily, the risk of oral cancer may be as high as 100% more than the risk for people who do not smoke or drink.

What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening

Typically, Dr. Niles will perform an oral cancer screening during your regular 6-month appointment unless you find something on your own that concerns you. The first part of the exam will involve a series of questions so Dr. Niles can know if there are certain areas that will need a more thorough examination.  Be as honest as you can during this process.  This verbal history will aid Dr. Niles during your screening.

After Dr. Niles has taken down your verbal history, she will ask you to remove any dentures or partials that you may have. (If appliances are in place it makes it difficult to see all the soft tissue areas in the mouth.)  Your face, neck, lips, and mouth will be examined for subtle signs of cancer. Dr. Niles will both look and feel for possible signs of cancer or precancerous tissue changes. These often manifest as red and/or white patches, or thickened areas. Your tongue (under and above) will be checked for swelling or irregular color patches. An inspection of the roof of your mouth and tonsils will also be part of the exam.

Oral cancer screenings requires trained eyes that know what they are looking for, where to look, and what things should feel like.  To aid in the screening process, different kinds of lights will be used to help detect subtle changes.  Oral rinses can also be used that indicate problem areas. Dye will be used on a suspicious tissue to test it.

All of these steps are taken to ensure that you are getting the thorough examination this disease requires. Exams typically take about 5 minutes unless something suspicious is found. Patients report having very little discomfort during an oral cancer screening. There is no need for local anesthetics or painkillers.  Dr. Niles will teach you how to conduct regular self exams at home and what to look for during your examination.  

Call for an Oral Cancer Screening Consultation

Oral cancer screenings are not procedures that you should elect out of. If they aren’t already, they need to become a regular part of your oral hygiene routine and your regular checkups. A proactive approach to your health is the best way to avoid potential hazards and to live a more full, rich life.  Call for your appointment today at (720) 744-0001. Our office is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure you receive the best possible care. Niles Family Dentistry is in Niwot, Colorado, with convenient access to the communities of Longmont and Boulder.   

Ashley Niles

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