When was your last oral cancer screening? It’s very possible that your dentist checked for oral cancer at your last appointment, but if you’re not sure, you’ll certainly want to check with your dentist. Thousands of Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year and early stage oral cancer is often painless, so it’s important to be educated on prevention, detection and treatment. Remain aware of your personal risk factors as well. It’s about more than just your mouth, as a majority of head and neck cancers originate in the oral cavity.
Oral cancer can start out as an uncomfortable sore on the inside of your mouth, but if untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. These days, oral cancer is being found in younger people than ever before, so although adults over 50 are at the highest risk, it’s recommended that everyone over 18 is screened.
What is an Oral Cancer Screening?
Oral cancer screenings are visual and physical examinations by your dentist to check for signs of cancer, or precancerous conditions in your mouth. Regular screenings help identify mouth cancer as early as possible, when it’s easiest to remove and more likely to be cured. Oral cancer screenings are relatively straightforward. Your dentist will examine the inside of your mouth to check for red or white patches and other sores. Your dentist will also check for lumps by feeling the tissues in your mouth.
You don’t have to go out of your way for an oral cancer screening, either. Your dentist can perform an oral cancer screening during your routine check-ups. If necessary, further testing can help determine whether or not an area of abnormal cells is cancerous. Talk with your dentist about risk factors and whether or not oral cancer screenings are right for you.
Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Since oral cancer doesn’t always have obvious symptoms, or can be hidden in areas of the mouth and throat that you can’t see yourself, it’s important to have your dentist perform regular oral cancer screenings. Even before symptoms start to show. But that doesn’t mean you can’t remain vigilant between check-ups to make sure your oral health is where it should be.
If you have a small red, white or black sore that lasts for two or more weeks, you’ll want to go to the dentist to determine what it is and what’s causing it, whether it’s cancerous or something else. Other symptoms of oral cancer that are less obvious include difficulty swallowing, painful chewing, coughing and an earache. Men should be especially aware of these signs because they are at a higher risk for oral cancer than women.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the factors that can increase your risk of oral cancer:
- Any tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc.
- Heavy alcohol use
- Significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer
- Previous oral cancer diagnosis
If you’re concerned about a sore in your mouth or simply looking for a preventative oral cancer screening during your dental check-up, contact Family SmileCare Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, today.