Although oral cancer may not get as much attention as some more widely-known types of cancer, that doesn’t mean it’s any less deadly. In fact, it is estimated that, in the United States, oral cancer is responsible for killing one person every hour, every day. While it accounts for a relatively small percentage of all cancers, oral cancer is dangerous because it isn’t usually detected until it has reached an advanced stage. Since early detection has been shown to increase the survival rate of oral cancer to 80% or better, this test can truly save lives. And best of all, oral cancer screenings are part of something you should be doing anyway: getting regular dental checkups.
Oral cancer screenings are fast and painless. Its objective is to identify small changes in the lining tissues of the mouth, lips, and tongue that may signify the early stages of this type of cancer. The screening is primarily a visual and tactile (touch) examination. If any abnormalities are noted, a small tissue sample can be retrieved for further testing in a laboratory.
Who’s At Risk for Developing Oral Cancer?
The answer might surprise you. Oral cancer used to be thought of as an older person’s disease, and it still mostly affects those over 40. But today, younger people form the fastest-growing segment among oral cancer patients. This is primarily due to the spread of the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16).
Of course, the other major risk factors still apply:
- Drinking and use of tobacco products
- Chronic exposure to the sun or skin cancer
- Genetic factors
The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings
A thorough screening for oral cancer is part of your routine dental checkup — another reason why you should be examined regularly. The screening includes a visual assessment of your lips, tongue, and the inside of your mouth, including a check for red or white patches or unusual sores. You may be palpated (pressed with fingers) to detect the presence of lumps and swellings, and your tongue may be gently pulled aside for an even better view. A special light, dye, or other procedure may also be used to help check any suspect areas. If anything appears to be out of the ordinary, a biopsy can easily be performed.
If you notice abnormal sores or color changes in the tissue of your mouth, lips, and tongue, they may be a symptom of oral cancer — most, however, are completely benign. But sores or other unusual changes that haven’t gone away by themselves after 2-3 weeks should be examined. Remember, the only way to accurately diagnose oral cancer is through a laboratory report. Early diagnosis, aided by thorough screenings at your regular dental checkups, is one of the best defenses against oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Screenings in Fort Worth, TX Through Ellis Dental
The team at Ellis Dental is proud to provide oral cancer screenings in Fort Worth, TX. We provide services for our patients to keep them safe and healthy. Along with these screenings, we also provide a range of other preventative dentistry services, including: