ORAL CANCER SCREENING
Regular dental exams are essential for the early detection, and treatment, of oral health issues. During these exams, your teeth are checked for signs of damage and decay, and your gums are checked for signs of gum disease. At National Dental Melville, another essential part of your regular dental exams is an oral cancer screening.
WHAT IS ORAL CANCER?
Oral cancer affects approximately 40,000 people across the United States every year. It is a serious health issue that can be deadly if not detected and treated early. Oral cancer can strike anywhere inside the mouth, affecting your lips, your tongue, your cheeks, your gums, the palate, the floor of your mouth or the back of the mouth near the entrance to your throat. Only about half of those who are diagnosed live longer than five years. At National Dental, it is our goal to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages so that we can get you the treatment you need to increase your chances for recovery.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are numerous different factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer:
- Smoking. Smoking or the use of any tobacco product (such as chewing tobacco) can greatly increase your risk. Upwards of 90% of all oral cancer patients were smokers. These products contain numerous harmful chemicals.
- Drinking. While occasional drinks may not play a role, excessive drinking can raise your risk. Approximately 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients have been heavy drinkers at one point. Those who smoke and drink have an exponentially higher risk.
- Your age. The older you are, the greater your risk.
- Family history. If you have an immediate family member (such as a parent) who has had oral cancer, your risk is increased.
- Certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) can also increase your risk.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
There are several symptoms that can point to oral cancer. It is important to know that these symptoms can appear at any time. They may not conveniently wait until your six-month dental exam. Knowing the symptoms can help you to take action and call right away:
- Red or white patches (or other unusual growths) inside your mouth.
- Sores that refuse to heal.
- Trouble with chewing, speaking and swallowing.
- A change in your bite.
- A change in the way your dentures fit.
- Feeling numb in your chin or jaw.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer
During your routine oral exam, we check your mouth for the symptoms of oral cancer. This is only a part of the diagnostic process. We will take digital images so that we can see what is happening under your gum line. We will also perform a soft tissue biopsy. The biopsy is a crucial part of the diagnostic process and will allow us to confirm, or rule out, the presence of oral cancer. There are several types of soft tissue biopsy that may be used:
- Incisional biopsy. This is also known as a diagnostic biopsy and is performed on larger lesions.
- Excisional biopsy. This biopsy is often used on small lesions and can be used to remove it entirely.
- Punch biopsy. A special tool is used to remove several layers of tissue.
- Brush biopsy. This biopsy does not involve removing any tissue. Instead, a brush is used to remove cells for examination.
Early detection is essential for successful treatment of oral cancer. If you notice any signs or symptoms in between your regular dental exams, call National Dental Melville today at (631) 816-2277.