How Often Should I Have an Oral Cancer Screening?
Routine oral cancer screening is the most effective way to protect yourself from this potentially life-threatening disease. It is best to get screened for oral cancer at least two times each year. It does not take much time, and it can be added to a routine checkup.
Many dentists keep an eye out for signs of this disease during routine checkups. Patients are advised to get regular oral cancer screening if they engage in habits that are known risk factors for the disease like:
- Smoking, inhaling or chewing tobacco products
- Habitual alcohol drinking
- People who have been diagnosed with oral cancer in the past
- People who spend a lot of time in the sun
- People with certain forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
What goes on during an oral cancer screening
The dentist may perform a visual inspection, paying close attention to the mouth, lips, neck and face. The patient's gums, cheeks, throat and the roof of their mouth will also be inspected.
The dentist might insert a finger into the patient's mouth, feeling underneath the tongue, the cheeks and other soft tissues in the mouth looking for bumps or a tumor. The entire screen typically takes less than five minutes. The dentist might decide to go a bit further and ask the patient to rinse their mouth with a dye. Any abnormal cells in the body will absorb the dye faster, making it easier to detect them.
The purpose of an oral cancer screen is to search for tumors or spots that might be an indicator of one developing oral cancer.
What happens if oral cancer is detected
If the dentist detects signs of oral cancer during the screening, the patient might be told to come back in a few weeks. If the abnormal growth is still there, a biopsy may be performed. This involves taking tissue from the problematic area and sending it to a lab where it is tested for cancer cells.
Depending on the dentist's qualifications, the patient might be referred to a doctor who can perform the biopsy.
It should be noted that not all irregular growths or bumps are signs of cancer. However, given the severe consequences of failing to diagnose cancer, most dentists would rather not take any chances.
The benefits of seeing a dentist regularly
Oral cancer is not the only issue that can be diagnosed early by getting regular checkups. Other, more common, problems like tooth decay and gum disease can be challenging to diagnose in their early stages, and they can lead to significant dental and health issues.
People who get regular checkups are more likely to have these problems diagnosed and treated before they turn into serious issues. This often saves them time and money.
The best way to fight oral cancer is early detection
There is no point taking any chances with something as serious as oral cancer. Visit our San Antonio clinic and get screened today.
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