Oral cancer is one of the most predominant types of cancer in the world; in fact, 54,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US, and roughly 40% of those cases have a grim outlook. But as serious and widespread as oral cancer might be, did you know that regular oral cancer screenings can offer significant protection from the disease? Keep reading to learn more about how!
The Importance of Regular Oral Cancer Screenings
When it comes to oral cancer, the bottom line is that early detection is absolutely crucial; the sooner the disease is caught, the easier it will be to treat. This is where oral cancer screenings come into play; these quick, safe, noninvasive screenings aren’t anything out of the ordinary and are performed at every routine dental checkup. They’re your best tool for preventing oral cancer, period.
It’s worth mentioning that as beneficial as oral cancer screenings are, they, unfortunately, do not cure oral cancer or treat it—rather, they’re a means for identifying the condition so that a treatment plan can then be constructed. In any case, those at a higher risk of oral cancer, including smokers, excessive alcohol drinkers, and those with an existing history of the disease, will all greatly benefit from these routine screenings.
What Goes on During an Oral Cancer Screening?
First comes the visual part of the examination; using a small light, mirror, and tongue depressor, your dentist will look inside your mouth and inspect your lips, cheeks, gums, teeth, and other oral structures for asymmetries and signs of cancer. They’re trained to detect these things, so you can rest assured that if anything’s there, they’ll find it!
Your dentist will also perform a physical examination of your oral structures; they’ll be on the lookout for precancerous symptoms including swelling, bumps, sores, white patches, and other things that you aren’t able to detect yourself. Technology is often instrumental during this part of the process; for example, screening devices such as a VELscope can be used to identify precancerous cells that are untraceable by the naked eye.
If anything is found, treatment can commence accordingly. A biopsy is taken and then sent to a lab for further analysis. You might also be asked to come in for a follow-up visit so your dentist can check the status of the abnormal area and determine the next move.
As serious as oral cancer is, you shouldn’t have to live in complete fear of the disease—with proper precautionary measures such as oral cancer screenings, you and your loved ones can remain well protected and smiling brightly for many years to come!
About the Author
Dr. Dina H. Cocco received her DDS from the University of Michigan in 1989 and has proudly served patients and families in the Ann Arbor community for several years! Her practice is thrilled to offer a wide range of services including routine oral cancer screenings at every regular visit. If you have any questions about the blog or need to schedule a visit for you or someone you know, feel free to contact Dr. Cocco through her practice’s website or over the phone for assistance: (734) 668-8636.