It is important to get an oral cancer screening regularly. This is a physical and visual examination of your mouth and the nearby tissues. The goal is to check for issues or signs that might indicate cancer. With a screening, you can have the reassurance that there are no issues that show oral cancer. Keep…
FAQs About Oral Cancer Prevention and Screenings
Oral cancer is a major concern for many branches of the medical field, including dentistry. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, around 53,000 people will likely be diagnosed with this type of cancer within the next year. Because of its higher mortality rate than many other types of cancer, early detection and prevention are essential for fighting the destruction it causes. Patients often have many questions about oral cancer, and providing the most up-to-date information and educating patients on prevention is an important job for dentists and dental hygienists.
Common questions about oral cancer
Patients' common concerns about oral cancer include who is at highest risk and how it can be detected.
Who is at risk of getting oral cancer?
Risk factors for oral cancer include any type of frequent tobacco use. While smoking more often causes throat cancer, it can be a risk factor for oral cancer as well. Smokeless tobacco that is chewed or held in the mouth causes tissue changes over time. This can lead to a growth of cancerous cells that can divide rapidly.
While many people are aware of the link between oral cancer and tobacco use, not as many know about the rise in oral cancer due to human papillomavirus. High-risk behaviors related to this type of oral cancer include unprotected sex or having multiple sexual partners. Dentists and other health professionals are obligated to explain all risk factors to patients and offer any guidance or counseling on stopping high-risk behaviors.
How often is a screening needed?
Many oral cancers are detected in later stages when treatment is more difficult. Early cases are more easily treated and have a better overall prognosis. Therefore, it is essential that patients visit a dentist at regular intervals and that the dentist performs a routine screening at every visit. The typical patient should see a dentist twice a year for a full exam; this often includes routine cleaning and X-rays as well.
How does a dentist check for oral cancer?
Visual examination and digital palpation are the most common ways that dentists look for cancer. The dentist may ask a patient to touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth to examine the tongue base. The dentist will also check the sides of the tongue, throat, lips and gums. Any unusual lesions, such as white or red patches or sores, may be biopsied and sent for laboratory results. It is important to note that not all suspicious areas are cancerous, but it is important to have any checked as soon as possible.
Oral cancer is a fairly prevalent disease that can be managed more effectively when detected early in the process. All medical professionals, especially dentists, should educate patients on risky behaviors that increase the chance of oral cancer. When patients are aware of all the facts, they can better make decisions about lifestyle choices and preventive measures.
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