Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

Dec 01, 2019

What Is Oral Cancer Screening?

It is concerned with the examination of the dental status of a patient to check for any cancerous growths. The screening is a precautionary measure that patients should take to ensure they do not have mouth cancer at any point in life. With cancer, the earlier you find it, the better the chances of neutralizing and eliminating it.

Why Is It Done?

The fact about cancer is that it is curable. However, this is only possible when the cancer is caught at the early stages before it spreads to other parts of the body. The primary reason you would want to go for oral cancer screening near you is for the sake of detecting any traces of cancer at an early stage. This is when they are easiest to remove.

Who Needs Oral Cancer Screening?

Any adult can be screened for cancer. However, a dentist in Merritt Island, FL, has to ascertain that you are at risk of mouth cancer. Some of the risks of mouth cancer include:

  • Smoking – whether cigarettes, marijuana, or cigars, the risks of oral cancer are high when you are a smoker.
  • Alcohol usages – heavy alcohol usage can increase the risk of mouth cancer. Most alcohol users need throat cancer screening because of the scorching effects it has on the throat.
  • Tobacco usage – even though you do not smoke it, chewing and snuffing of tobacco increase the risks of oral cancer.
  • The previous diagnosis – cancer is very notorious when it comes to spreading to other parts of the body. Some people who sign up for mouth cancer treatment in Merritt Island, FL, have had the previous diagnosis of oral cancer or any other type of cancer for that matter.

What Can You Expect?

The screening is performed during a typical dental examination routine. The steps to anticipate in the screening process include:

  • Visual exam

The first step involves a visual examination by your dentist. The dentist will take a close look at the health of your teeth. This involves checking wounds, swellings, bumps, teeth problems, and patches on gum tissue, among other oral concerns. Any mouth sores are also targets for this examination. For this exam, the dentist ensures that all dental appliances are removed. The goal is to expose all parts of the mouth for the exam. This includes braces, dentures, among others. The visual exam will not only be for your mouth. The dentist will check the surrounding areas, including your nose, throat, and tonsils. The dental devices used for this exam include a mirror and a light.

  • Physical exam

The issues that have been missed during the visual exam can be caught on the physical one. This one involves touching different parts to identify any swellings, bumps, and pain spots. The target areas are usually the gums, inner and outer cheeks, the jaw, as well as under the chin. Any anomalies, including bumps and pain, can indicate the presence of cancerous cells.

  • Additional tests

If your dentist is suspicious about the presence of cancerous cells, he/she will perform further tests on your mouth. This usually includes the use of a special blue dye. The dye increases the visibility of the abnormal cells. Technically, any blue appearances after the application of the dye indicate abnormal cells. Besides that, shining a bright light in your mouth will expose the abnormal cells. They often appear white while the healthy tissues remain dark.

What Happens When You Have Signs Of Cancer?

The results from your examination are never conclusive in the first stage alone. Most of the precancerous lesions can have similar manifestations like other oral issues. For example, a sore in your mouth can be canker sore and not necessarily a cancerous one. In that case, your dentist will schedule another dental visit. The second follow-up visit will be to examine the progress of the precancerous lesions. If they are still there, the next move is taken.

Your dentist takes a sample of cells to the laboratory. At the lab, the cells are tested for evaluation of whether or not they are cancerous. This is referred to as the biopsy procedure. A general dentist can perform this procedure or refer you to an oral cancer specialist for further analysis.

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