Oral Cancer Screening
One step can be a lifesaver – literally. That step is the oral cancer exam.
One American dies from oral cancer every hour. The hard truth is that we are all at risk. 25% of cases of oral cancer occur in non-smokers who do not have any other known risk factors.
Oral cancer has a very high cure rate – if it can be caught early, before it can spread throughout the body. That’s why we perform an annual oral cancer exam in combination with your conventional dental exam. At Pure Dental Arts, we can help in identifying pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions in the mouth.
What are the oral cancer risk factors?
Highest risk: Peoplewho are 40 and older with lifestyle risk factors like alcohol consumption and/or tobacco use, as well as exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV)
Medium risk: People 40 and older without the above-noted lifestyle risk factors.
Less risk: People aged 18-40 without the above-noted lifestyle risk factors.
What is in an oral cancer screening?
- The dentist examine the face, lips, neck, and inside of the nose and mouth during an oral cancer screening. Before the screening we ask patients to remove all dental appliances, like retainers, dentures, or partial dentures.
- The dentist scans for asymmetries, bumps, lumps, swellings, red/white lesions, ulcerations, and anything that looks abnormal.
- A tongue depressor is used to check the back of the throat.
- Dental tools may be needed to evaluate the gums, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, tonsils, and areas under the tongue.
During the visual exam, the dentist will also palpate or touch the head and cheeks, around the jaw, and in the mouth itself to feel for any nodules or unusual masses. One red flag is if normally mobile tissue is hard and immobile. Also, oral cancer symptoms can be painful, but they are not always painful. A painless swelling can still suggest oral cancer.
Oral cancer screening devices
In addition to standard dental equipment, a dentist may also use specialized tools during the oral cancer screening. There are tools for doing a “brush biopsy” in which cells are painlessly removed in order to be sent for testing. There is a device called a VELscope, which uses a special visible blue light to identify aberrant tissue changes. Special mouth rinses can stain the abnormal regions of the mouth, and help in identifying problems.
After the screening:
- An oral cancer screening is not definitive. If the dentist finds nothing abnormal, the patient may need to return at set intervals for further screening, especially if he or she has the lifestyle risk factors listed above (smoking, alcohol consumption, HPV exposure).
- Abnormal tissues have to be biopsied, either by the dentist, or by a specialist, in order to get a definitive confirmation of Ora Cancer.
Compassionate Care and Support
At Pure Dental Arts, annual oral cancer exams are quick and painless. A few minutes once a year can go long way to preventing a potentially life-threatening illness. If you would like an oral cancer screening, contact Pure Dental Arts in Queen Anne, Seattle, today.