Every patient should have an oral cancer screening performed at least once per year. This assessment determines if the patient is at risk for the development of oral cancer or if cancer is already present. The screening is meant to catch the signs or presence of oral cancer early so treatment can be applied before it advances to the next stage.
The Importance of Early Detection of Oral Cancer
The most important reason to have an oral cancer screening is to determine if oral cancer is present or if there are indications of oral cancer. Nearly 85 percent of all oral cancer cases can be identified by an oral health professional. This detection empowers the dentist to select the best treatment and apply it to stop the spread of the cancer. Signs of oral cancer and other significant oral health issues include discoloration in the mouth, sores, lumps in tissues and other abnormalities. If any problems are found, a sample is taken and sent to the lab for additional testing. The lab will determine if it is cancer.
If it is determined that the sample sent to the lab is cancerous, the patient should not panic. The point of performing the oral cancer screening is to identify the initial stage of cancer before it progresses. The proper treatment plan will be crafted to reduce the chances of the cancer’s spread.
Oral Cancer Detection Requires an Oral Health Professional
It is nearly impossible for a patient to detect oral cancer on his or her own. Though it is possible to note issues that are particularly obvious, you will not be able to confirm the abnormality is a sign of oral cancer until you consult with a professional. The challenge in determining if oral cancer is present is the symptoms of this cancer are typically similar to all sorts of other oral health issues. Anything from a slight discoloration of tissues in the mouth to pain during swallowing, bleeding gums or sore gums can be a sign of oral cancer. If you experience any of these problems for more than a couple days, reach out to your oral health professional for an oral cancer screening.
Risks for Oral Cancer
Those who engage in certain behaviors are at a higher risk for oral cancer than others. Everything from smoking to heavy drinking, an unhealthy diet and prolonged sun exposure can cause oral cancer. Extensive sun exposure without SPF lip balm is especially risky in the context of oral cancer. Try to stay in the shade, use sunscreen and protect your skin with ample clothing. Additional risk factors for oral cancer include age (40 and older are at a higher risk) and gender (men face a higher risk).
However, even if you do not have any of the symptoms noted above, you should have an oral cancer screening performed at least once per year as a component of maintaining your overall health. Though the dentist will not be able to determine if you have cancer while you are in the office for your screening, a sample will be sent to the lab for analysis.
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