The American Cancer Society’s estimated number of new oral cancer and pharynx cancer cases in the U.S. in 2022 is 54,000!
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer includes cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, throat, and floor/roof of the mouth. The disease can spread quickly and affect neighboring tissues, which is why early detection is so critical. In some cases, oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body, making it even more dangerous.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can develop oral cancer, but certain factors can increase the likelihood of getting it.
- Smoking or using tobacco products.
**About 85% of patients with oral cancer use tobacco products in one of its forms.**
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to the HPV virus
- Poor nutrition
- Family history of cancer
- UV radiation exposure to the lips
Why are Oral Cancer Screenings Important?
Oral cancer screenings are crucial in detecting any signs of oral cancer early, when treatment is most successful. During a screening, a dentist looks for irregularities on the mouth, lips, throat, and surrounding tissues. Common symptoms associated with oral cancer include:
- Red or white patches on the gums or tongue
- A lump or bump on the tongue, gums, or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- A persistent sore throat
- Unexplained bleeding
What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening
A typical oral cancer screening starts with a visual examination of the mouth, throat, and surrounding tissues. The dentist will then feel the neck and jaw area for any lumps or enlarged lymph nodes as well as palpate the jaw joint for any pops, clicks or discomfort while opening or closing your mouth. During this time, you may be asked questions about your medical history to help assess your risk factors.
If any suspicious areas are discovered during the exam, we will document any findings and set up another appointment to reevaluate the area after a few weeks. Most oral lesions will resolve on their own in that time frame. If a lesion does not resolve, you may need to undergo other diagnostic tests or a tissue biopsy to further assess the area. However, it is essential to remember that most oral cancer screenings will reveal no suspicious areas, and there is no need for concern.
Oral cancer can be a devastating and life-threatening condition. However, early detection through regular oral cancer screenings can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment. Dr. McAdams experienced this situation first hand when he discovered a lesion in a patient’s mouth during a routine dental examination that concerned him enough to order a biopsy. Pathology reports indicated that a small white bump in the area where a molar had been extracted recently was an uncommon form of carcinoma. When caught early (like this was), oral cancers can be removed entirely and without complication. When allowed to progress unchecked, oral cancers can lead to complete removal of the tongue, lower jaw or in severe cases can be fatal.
How often are the oral screenings done in the office?
At McAdams Dental, we conduct a head and neck exam every time you have a dental check up and cleaning. If it has been a while since your last checkup, make an appointment with us today to schedule your next oral cancer screening.