It is important for you to see your dentist and hygienist regularly. An oral exam including an oral cancer screening is routinely performed by your dentist during your regular check-ups. During an oral cancer screening, oral lesions including potential cancerous lesions can be identified and biopsied for analysis by laboratory specialists. When definitive results are obtained, you and your dentist can decide on the best course of treatment.
The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, the dentist and hygienist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks. The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.
According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important.
The soft tissue of the mouth is normally lined with mucosa, that should appear smooth in texture and pink in color. Any alteration of the color or texture of the mucosa may signal the beginning of a pathologic process. These changes may occur on the face, neck, and areas of the mouth (e.g., gums, tongue, lips, etc.). The most serious of these pathologic changes (which may or may not be painful) is oral cancer, but there are also many other common pathologic problems.
In the majority of cases, the pathological changes experienced in the oral region are uncomfortable and disfiguring, but not life threatening. However, oral cancer is on the rise (especially among men) and the chances of survival are around 80% if the condition is diagnosed in an early stage. Some lifestyle habits and health conditions can result in a higher risk for oral cancer and other oral lesions. It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. A consultation with your dentist regarding risk factors can help you identify and adjust these risk factors that could put you at a higher risk for these conditions.
Since it is impossible for the dentist to decisively diagnose a pathological disease without taking a biopsy sample of the affected area, seeking immediate treatment when changes are first noticed might be a life and death decision.
If you are experiencing any changes in your oral cavity, pain or symptoms that cause you concern, we encourage you to contact us today at (415) 731-5104 to schedule an appointment for consultation.