While our bodies are made of complex and intricate systems, they are at risk for developing a disease like cancer. Oral cancer is especially dangerous for our health because it moves quickly and oftentimes goes unnoticed. The good news is that when diagnosed early, oral cancer is easily treatable. One of the best ways to monitor your oral health and detect cancer early on is with an oral cancer screening. This screening takes less than five minutes to perform but can literally save your life. Find out what to expect during an oral cancer screening with this guide!
Understanding Oral Cancer
One of the deadliest and fastest moving cancers is oral cancer, with most patients not understanding what they have until the later stages of the disease when symptoms begin to present themselves. Oral cancer is treatable when caught early, but since it’s so silent, it can go unnoticed for months. There are over 48,000 patients who suffer from squamous cell carcinoma in the oral cavity and pharynx each year, with nearly 10,000 of those patients succumbing to the disease. Studies show that survival rates for oral cancer depends highly on the stage that the cancer was first discovered and subsequent treatment. While genetics play a small role in oral cancer, nearly 75% of cases are due to alcohol and tobacco use. Those with previous oral cancer diagnoses and patients who have contracted Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, are also at a higher risk for developing oral cancer. While these statistics seem intimidating, most cases of oral cancer can be prevented when patients receive regular oral cancer screenings. These screenings help the dentist identify any abnormal growths or areas of concern that indicate disease, which can save your life in the long run. Even if you don’t participate in any of the aforementioned activities, it is still a good idea to schedule a medical evaluation to safeguard your oral health.
What An Oral Cancer Screening Looks Like
Unlike other cancer screenings, an oral cancer screening takes about five minutes to complete and focuses on your oral cavity, including the mouth, lips, throat, cheeks and tongue. Your dentist will typically perform an oral cancer screening as part of a regular dental checkup and will begin by listening to how you speak for any signs of raspiness or speech abnormalities that could indicate a problem. Afterwards, he/she will use a light to look in your mouth for any lesions or white/red patches that are tell-tale signs of oral cancer. Your dentist will also have you move your head back and forth and review your neck to feel for any lumps that may be there. Your hard and soft palates, along with your tonsils and larynx, will be evaluated, as well, even if they’re hard to see and/or reach. In these cases, a special optic tool is used to view areas that are hard to reach to ensure that they’re healthy. While this screening is quick and easy, it can be life saving for patients who have unknowingly developed oral cancer. If you’re due for an oral cancer screening, make sure to schedule a dental checkup as soon as possible to receive the peace of mind that your oral health is in good shape.
How To Prevent Oral Cancer
Most cases of oral cancer are completely preventable if you take the right precautions in your diet and lifestyle choices. One of the major contributors of oral cancer is tobacco use. If you can, eliminate all tobacco use from your life. This will decrease your chances of developing a life-threatening disease and keep your teeth and gums healthy, as well. Additionally, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Women should drink no more than one drink a day while men can drink up to two drinks per day. Alcohol use not only damages the oral cavity but your liver, pancreas and brain, as well. Excessive sun exposure can also cause oral cancer, so make sure to wear sunscreen while outside and try to avoid the hours between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Don’t forget to wear lip balm with SPF 30 or higher, either-your lips are just as susceptible to disease as the rest of your face is, so make sure to take care of them, too. Eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables also reduces disease and gives your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to develop and sustain healthy organs. If you have any questions regarding what you can do to reduce your oral cancer risks, speak with your dentist. Dentists are trained in recognizing and treating oral cancer, so address any of your concerns with him/her for advice.
Safeguard Your Health With Our Help!
If you’re due for an oral cancer screening, schedules yours with Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425. Your oral health is our priority, and we will do all we can to ensure that your mouth is healthy and happy. Don’t let disease get you down-call today to get your oral health back on track!