Should you get an oral cancer screening?

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to underscore the fact that early detection of oral cancer can decrease morbidity and increase long-term survival. Get screened!

Oral cancer is a problem in Oklahoma, as it is in many parts of the world. According to the American Cancer Society, Oklahoma has higher rates of oral cancer incidence and mortality than the national average. In 2021, it was estimated that there would be 510 new cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer diagnosed in Oklahoma, and 160 deaths from these cancers in the state.

If detected early, oral cancer is highly treatable. Dr. Wheatley offers and recommends oral cancer screenings for our patients, especially those at a higher risk for the disease.

An oral cancer screening is a simple examination that is performed by a dentist or a doctor to check for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in the mouth. The screening typically involves a visual inspection of the lips, gums, tongue, and other oral tissues, as well as palpation of the neck and lymph nodes.

During the screening, Dr. Wheatley or our hygienist may use special tools to examine the mouth and throat more closely, such as a light and mirror or a specialized camera. They will look for signs of abnormal growths, sores, or lesions that could be indicative of oral cancer or other conditions.

Oral cancer screenings are generally recommended for adults on a regular basis, especially those who smoke or use tobacco products, drink alcohol excessively, or have a family history of cancer. Early detection of oral cancer can lead to better treatment outcomes and can increase the chances of a full recovery.

Why does your dentist perform an oral cancer screening?

Dentists perform oral cancer screenings as part of their routine dental exams because they are trained to detect any signs or symptoms of oral cancer, which can develop in the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, or other areas of the head and neck.

Oral cancer screenings are important because early detection is crucial for successful treatment and a better chance of recovery. By examining the mouth and surrounding tissues, dentists can identify any abnormalities or suspicious lesions that may require further testing or evaluation.

Overall, oral cancer screenings are a simple and non-invasive way for dentists to help ensure their patients\’ overall oral health and well-being.

Risk factors of oral cancer?

Those most susceptible to oral cancer are:

  • Smokers and tobacco users
  • Heavy drinkers
  • Those with a family history of oral cancer
  • Those with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16)
  • People exposed to direct sunlight over long periods of time
  • Those who don\’t use sunscreen from the sun\’s ultraviolet radiation

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer

  • Sores, swellings, lumps, or thick patches anywhere in or around your mouth or throat
  • Areas of red or white lesions in your mouth or lips
  • The feeling of a lump or object stuck in your throat
  • Numbness, pain, or tenderness anywhere in your mouth, including your tongue

But even if you don’t show any specific symptoms, you should get screened, especially if you have any of the above risk factors.

Please let us know if you have any questions, or if you would like to be screened for oral cancer at your next visit.