Approximately 53,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019 alone. Oral cancer can be life-threatening if it is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, and it is usually detected during a normal dental checkup.
This can be a particularly dangerous type of cancer, because it doesn’t always present obvious symptoms or pain – yet it has a high risk of producing high-grade tumors of the mouth. Oral cancer screening can be carried out as part of your routine dental exam, and it is an effective way to detect any abnormalities in their early stages and thereby dramatically improve the chance of successful treatment.
What Is Involved in an Oral Cancer Screening?
An oral cancer screening is an examination that is usually performed by your dentist, and it is done to check for any abnormalities or signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in the mouth. The screening involves your dentist looking and feeling for any lumps or irregular tissue changes in the mouth, and sometimes also around the head, face, and neck area.
Your dentist will look for abnormalities such as sores, discolored tissue, lumps, or changes from the previous examination. Some dentists may use additional tests to help identify any areas of abnormal cells; if there are any suspicious areas, a small biopsy may be taken to determine the cause of the abnormality.
The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening examinations every 3 years for individuals over the age of 20 and annually for those over 40. Talk to your dentist about oral cancer screening, as early detection dramatically improves your chance of successful treatment. Many dentists incorporate a quick screening of typical signs of oral cancer in every checkup.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Early-stage oral cancer may not cause pain and may go unnoticed, but the most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- A sore or irritation in the mouth that does not heal or go away within 2 weeks
- A white or red patch in your mouth, such as on gums, tongue, inside of your cheek, or inside or outside of your lips
- An area that bleeds easily
- A lump or thick, or crusty area
- Numbness in an area of the mouth, face, or neck
- Difficulty swallowing food or moving your tongue
- A soreness or sensation that something is caught in your throat
- Changes in the voice, such as hoarseness
- Chronic sore throat
- Change in bite pattern (you may have difficulty bringing your jaws together or chewing food)
- Ear pain
- Swelling that causes dentures to not fit properly anymore
- Dramatic or unexplained weight loss
Oral Cancer Screening in the Twin Cities
Here at Hagerman Dental Care, we offer comprehensive dental services for your whole family, including regular oral cancer screenings. We have an unsurpassed commitment to patient care and comfort to ensure that you have a positive dental experience.
To learn more about oral cancer screening or any of our other services, call our dental clinic today at (651) 646-2392 or request an appointment now by filling out our online form. We look forward to being your dental healthcare partner!