Should You Undergo Oral Cancer Screenings?
Oral cancer screenings are a series of tests performed by your dentist to look for some signs and clues of cancer in your mouth. The main goal of the screening is to identify mouth cancer in its early stage. If you do have this form of cancer, you will still have greater chance of it being cured because it is caught early.
These days, dentists perform a dental examination each time you visit for a routine checkup. If they suspect something, they may perform additional tests to further identify abnormal cells in your mouth.
Should You Undergo Oral Cancer Screenings Even If You Are Healthy?
You must discuss it with your dentist. Currently, there are no oral cancer screenings yet that can prove to reduce your risk of dying from an oral cancer. They are only provided to detect the signs as early as possible to cure them as soon as possible.
These screenings are usually performed to identify precancerous lesions, which may lead to oral cancer. The early stage of this cancer is still easy to remove. When it is on its early stage, it is most likely to be treated or cured successfully.
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, there are no studies yet to prove that these screenings can save lives. This is one of the reasons some health groups do not recommend them while others do.
On the other hand, if you have high risk of suffering from this condition, you are more likely to obtain the benefits of oral cancer screenings. This is especially true if you smoke excessively and drink alcohol frequently.
Patients with previous diagnosis of this cancer may also benefit from it.
And if you have history of intense sun exposure, it may increase your risk of lip cancer and lesions are seen during oral cancer screenings.
What to Expect?
Oral cancer screenings are performed quickly. There is no pain involved or any type of discomfort that you will experience.
Your dentist will physically examine the outside and inside appearance of your gums, cheeks, throat, and tongue. The floor and roof of your mouth are examined thoroughly.
From your mouth, your dentist will inspect your lymph nodes and take note of swelling and other abnormalities. Any asymmetry in your face will also be inspected.
Do not be surprised if your dentist would ask you about your smoking and/or drinking habits, as well as your lifestyle. This is just part of the screening. Your lifestyle, health condition and medication could affect your mouth, the head and your neck.
Some dental offices use a special light that can show lesions that may be cancerous and non-cancerous. Your dentist may perform this screening free of charge as part of your dental checkup. Unfortunately, some offices do charge a certain fee for it.
All dentists and even hygienists are trained to perform this type of screening.
Oral cancer screenings are just a way to determine whether or not you have cancerous or non-cancerous lesions in your mouth. If you do have lesions or sores found in your mouth, your dentist may request for additional tests. Because they are just screenings, they cannot determine if the lesion or sore is cancerous or not.
A biopsy may be requested by your dentist. He/she will take a sample from your mouth and send it to a laboratory.
Another limitation of this examination is that it is not capable of detecting all mouth cancers. The reason for this is that some lesions are difficult to detect. Thus, it is possible that your dentist may miss some cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions.
They are not proven to save lives. However, when oral cancer is detected early, cure is more likely.
That said, just because oral cancer screenings are not proven to save lives, it does not mean that you should not undergo this examination. As previously mentioned, this examination may help spot pre-cancerous lesions. And if oral cancer is caught early, it can be cured.
Ask your dentist about this screening. It can be performed during your dental checkup. There are no special preparations that you must perform. All you have to do is go to your dentist’s clinic. The screening may take less than an hour, depending on your condition.
Call our office about oral cancer screenings and find out whether or not you are at risk of developing cancerous lesions in your mouth.