Safeguard Your Health with an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral Cancer Screening

Have you had an Oral Cancer Screening? According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies from oral cancer every hour of every day in the United States. Caught early, oral cancer has an excellent success rate. Unfortunately, most oral cancer goes undetected until symptoms have progressed to a point where the cancer has spread and treatment is much more difficult. An oral cancer screening can protect you from a potential delay in diagnosis and allow you prompt treatment should it be necessary.


The Oral Cancer Foundation Urges the Public to Get Screened

Prevention is the best defense against most things you will encounter in life.  Getting ahead of cancer is crucial for success and to limit the scope and impact on your life and long-term health.  Surprisingly, less that 15 percent of those that regularly visit the dentist have an oral cancer screening, according to recent data from the Oral Cancer Foundation.  In an effort to reduce the suffering, permanent damage, disfigurement and death caused by the disease, the Oral Cancer Foundation is calling on all those in the dental community to step up their efforts for public awareness and treatment. Getting an oral cancer screening should be a part of every 6-month examination with your dentist and you should be doing self-screenings regularly when you brush your teeth.


How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

If you can say anything good about oral cancer it would be that unlike most cancers, it is easily detectable and responds well to treatment. Typically, oral lesions are in plain sight. Oral cancer can be detected in a 3-5 minute, painless examination.  The survival rate is extremely high if it is found and treated early on.  However, if you avoid getting screened or acting on lesions you might find on your own, you could fall victim to this disease.  The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that seventy-five percent of all head and neck cancers begin in your oral cavity. 30 percent of oral cancers begin in the tongue, 17 percent in the lip, and 14 percent in the floor of the mouth.  These three areas are highly examined by your Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies doctors and staff.  We are dedicated to boosting awareness in our community for the need to have an annual screening and to do self-checks.  By committing to regular visits with our office we can guarantee you will receive screenings twice a year. Your efforts to safeguard your health in this way can give you back great dividends.


Are Some People More at Risk for Oral Cancer?

While oral cancer can strike anyone, anywhere, of any age, there are certain groups or situations that can make you more at risk for developing it. Consider the following risk factors:


  • The risk of developing oral cancer increases with age.
  • Men are also twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women, with most people being over the age of 55.
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight (lip cancers)
  • Diets low in fruits and vegetables
  • Inherited genetic mutations
  • Human Papilloma Viruses, (or HPV)
  • Tobacco and heavy alcohol use – People who smoke and drink heavily increase their risk of oral cancer by as much as 100% than those that don’t.


What Can I Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral Cancer Screenings are performed at your regular 6-month cleaning and examination appointments by Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri.  (If you find something during a self-check before that 6-month appointment, do NOT hesitate to call us to make an earlier appointment.  


The first part of the exam will be a series of questions about your current health and health history so Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri can know if there are certain areas that will need a more thorough examination.  This part of the examination is crucial.  Answer the questions thoroughly and honestly to ensure you get appropriate treatment. This verbal history will direct Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri during your screening. Some of the questions you can plan for are:


  1. Have you noticed any changes in swallowing?
  2. Have you had any chronic hoarseness?
  3. Have you noticed/felt any small lumps when feeling the side of your neck putting on makeup or shaving?
  4. Have you had any persistent earaches? (Of particular importance are if they occur on just one side).
  5. Have any of your friends noticed a change in your voice or your speech pattern?


After Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri have acquired your verbal history, they will ask you to remove any dentures or partials that you may have.  These appliances can interfere with being able to clearly see all the soft tissue areas in your mouth.  Next,Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri will examine your face, neck, lips, and mouth for any signs of cancer.  They are looking and feeling for possible signs of cancer or pre-cancerous tissue changes, such as red and/or white patches, or thickened areas. Your tongue (under and above) is examined for swelling or irregular color patches. The roof of your mouth and tonsils will also be checked as part of the exam.  Dr. Murri and Dr. Willey have trained eyes that know what to look for and what things should feel like.  Different forms of light are often incorporating to help your doctors detect subtle tissue changes and lesions. Sometimes oral rinses or dyes are necessary to identify problem areas. These are often used if suspicious tissue is found.


Although this seems like a lot, the exams typically take about 5 minutes unless something suspicious is found. Patients report having very little discomfort during an oral cancer screening. There is no need for local anesthetics or painkillers.  During this exam, Dr. Willey or Dr. Murri will also take the opportunity to show you how to do regular self exams at home and what to look for.  


Call to Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening Today

Everyone is in need of an oral cancer screening.  Catching oral cancer early is crucial. If you haven’t had an oral cancer screening before, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-6101, to schedule one. For your added convenience, you can also send us a contact or appointment request online using the form below.