With cancer’s notoriously high mortality rate, it’s no wonder your dentist in Morton, IL, is promoting oral cancer screening. People fear cancer because this disease has taken the lives of millions worldwide. The American Cancer Society shows that in 2023, around 54,540 new cases of oral cancer have been detected, and about 11,580 died from the oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer. Despite the grim statistics, oral cancer is entirely curable if detected early.
Understanding Oral Cancer Screening
Defining Oral Cancer
Oral cancer or mouth cancer is a condition where a tumor develops in any part of the mouth. It can occur in your tongue, gums, lips, the roof of your mouth, the floor, or the inner lining of your cheeks. Cancer can also grow in the glands that produce saliva, the pharynx, and the tonsils. However, these areas are less common.
Oral Cancer Detection and Diagnosis
Compared to other forms of cancer, oral cancer cells are easily identified during an oral examination. When you visit your dentist once every six months, you can be diagnosed and treated early before cancer metastasize. According to oral cancer screening guidelines, adults over the age of 20 should be screened every three years, while individuals over the age of 40 should be screened annually.
Who Are at Risk of Oral Cancer?
The following factors can increase a person's risk of developing oral cancer:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Age (risk increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 40)
- UV exposure (lip cancer)
- Poor oral hygiene
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Family history of oral or other types of cancer
- Oral cancer is more common in men than in women
- A previous history of oral cancer or precancerous lesions
A person with one or more risk factors does not necessarily develop oral cancer. Early detection of oral cancer can be achieved through regular dental checkups and self-exams.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
Like any other medical condition, oral cancer has its own symptoms that you need to look out for. However, it can be challenging to detect oral cancer symptoms because they are similar to mild infections. For an accurate diagnosis and peace of mind, we strongly urge you to set an appointment with your dentist.
Some of the early warning signs of oral cancer are the following:
- Nasal bleeding (epistaxis)
- Numbness when biting
- Hard oral lumps
- Persistent gum swelling
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Cuts that do not heal
What Happens in an Oral Cancer Screening?
The screening process is painless, so there’s no need to worry. It begins with a comprehensive medical history checkup. Your dentist will ask questions about your family medical history to determine your susceptibility to oral cancer.
After the interview, you will undergo a physical examination, including dental inspection and digital palpation. You will also undergo some lab tests such as CBC (complete blood count), CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and panendoscopy (the examination of your larynx, esophagus, pharynx, and upper trachea).
The tumor will also be biopsied to identify what stage it is. At the end of the screening, you will have a detailed tumor board containing all information about the cancer cells discovered, including the size, location, and whether it’s malignant or benign.
Do You Need to See Your Dentist in Morton, IL?
Part of preventive dental care is regular oral cancer screening, especially if you are at risk. We offer affordable dental treatments at Smalltown Dental, including oral cancer screening, to protect and restore your oral health. Contact us for an appointment.