Kokua Smiles: Oral Cancer Screening

Oral Cancer Screening

Early detection is key in the battle against cancer & this is no different with oral cancer. Remember that 25% of oral cancer diagnoses are for non-smokers.

Oral cancer doesn't always cause symptoms in the early stages, so it's crucial to have a screening to detect potential problems before they're visible to the naked eye or cause sensations. Every patient must receive a simple & pain-free oral cancer screening.

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Signs & Symptoms

Oral cancer can appear throughout the mouth, including on your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, the roof of your mouth & other soft tissue surfaces. It can also develop back in your throat, which doctors call oropharyngeal cancer.

The most common oral cancer symptom is red or white sores that don't improve over time. These can be discolored patches or hard lumps. Feelings of pain may accompany them, but they aren't always painful. Because it can be challenging to distinguish cancerous sores from typical mouth sores, seeing your dentist for regular screenings is extremely important.

Other symptoms include throat soreness, bad breath & changes in the mouth, such as loose teeth or difficulty chewing & swallowing. If you experience any of these, you should come to see us immediately. Though conditions other than cancer can cause these things, visiting us as early as possible is your best chance to improve your oral cancer prognosis.

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

Tobacco use (smoking, chewing & dipping)
Excessive alcohol consumption
Poor diet
HPV (human papilloma virus)
Age (higher risk over 40 years old)
How Dentists Diagnose Oral Cancer

What to expect from the oral cancer screening?

During your oral cancer screening, your dentist will visually examine your mouth & surrounding areas. Using lights, mirrors & other tools, they can check areas of your mouth that are otherwise too difficult to see. They are also trained to locate more subtle signs of cancer, such as asymmetrical features inside & outside the mouth.

With modern technological advances, dentists also have various cancer-detecting tools. Specially designed lights can highlight potentially cancerous spots & cleaning rinses can improve the inspection process. This equipment is only used to enhance the visual & physical examinations; it's never used as a replacement for tried & true detection methods!

When a dentist completes an oral cancer screening, they won't immediately say whether you have oral cancer. They may wish to monitor the condition of your mouth & they may ask you to come back for further testing. Please understand that this does not necessarily mean that something is wrong. Discovering oral cancer can be complicated. The doctor might want to monitor your oral condition to ensure that more severe symptoms don't appear.

Remember that oral cancer has an 80 to 90% survival rate when caught early. Oral cancer can seem scary, but we encourage you to come to us with any concerns immediately. Early detection & lifestyle changes will help ensure the best possible outcome. So be sure to ask the dentist or the hygienist for your annual screening!