The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings
Approximately 50,000 people receive an oral cancer diagnosis each year, and 75% of head and neck cancers begin in the oral cavity. Unfortunately, a significant problem with oral cancer is that patients often discover them too late. When a dental professional can detect oral cancer in Miami in its early stages, this offers patients a significant increase in recovery and survival rate.
An oral cancer screening reflects an examination performed by a dental professional to observe and analyze potential signs of cancer and precancerous conditions inside of a patient’s mouth. These screenings aim to identify the problem early, providing patients with an increased chance of a cure.
Most dentists will perform the examination during routine dental visits to screen for oral cancer in Miami. Some specialists may apply additional analysis to help identify oral cells within a patient’s mouth.
Consequently, no single oral exam or screening can reduce the risk of death from oral cancer directly. Nonetheless, early detection is the best way to get an early jump on treatment, with the greatest chance of a positive outcome.
Oral Cancer Screening from a Dental Professional
The ultimate goal of cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer and precancerous lesions that can result in mouth cancer in an early stage. This early detection enables a specialist to remove the cancerous cells with the greatest chance for a cure.
People that post the highest risk for oral cancer remain more likely to experience benefits from oral cancer screenings. Factors that can increase the risk for oral cancer include:
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption
- Tobacco Use of Any Kind
- Prior Oral Cancer Diagnoses
- History of Sun Exposure (this may increase the risk for lip cancers)
Early diagnosis is essential when treating oral cancer, so routine screenings are key. In most cases, patients will display a malignant lesion with progression from dysplasia occurring from 2 to 8 years.
Dental hygienists and their teams remain on the front lines in the early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer. They can complete a thorough oral cancer screening in as little as 2 minutes, asking patients questions about the condition and conducting an oral examination.
Oral Cancer Examination | What to Expect?
The common consensus regarding oral cancer rates in patients was that oral cancer only occurred in older patients who smoked or drank alcohol. Now, we understand that 70 to 80 percent of oral cancer occurs due to human papillomavirus or HPV.
When a dental professional conducts an oral cancer screening, they will likely begin by palpitating the neck from the jawline to the clavicle. This helps a specialist examine the lymph nodes for cancer. When cancerous, these lymph nodes are hard as a rock, only the skin will move when the node is touched.
Additionally, a dentist will analyze areas where saliva pools. We can consider these areas “high-risk” for oral cancer in Miami. Some common saliva pooling areas include the floor of the mouth, the borders of the tongue, and the oropharynx.
The dentist will instruct the patient to stick out their tongue as far as they can before moving it from left to right. They will then grasp the tongue and gently pull it to observe the ventrolateral borders. Patients will then say “AAAHH” to inspect the oropharynx.
Any lesion, sore, or other irregularity that doesn’t resolve within two weeks will be sent for a biopsy. A biopsy represents the only way to confirm a potential cancer diagnosis.
Oral Cancer Screening Limitations
The majority of sores in the mouth remain noncancerous. Routine examinations can typically determine if a sore is cancerous. If a dentist detects any suspicious areas, this will likely require more extensive testing.
They will remove suspicious cells and conduct a biopsy to determine if these areas are cancerous or not. While oral cancer screening alone remains insufficient to detect all mouth cancers, early detection is the best way to increase a patient’s chances if diagnosed with oral cancer in Miami.
Oral Cancer in Miami | Cancer Screenings | Pinecrest Dental
An oral cancer screening doesn’t require any special preparation. During the exam, the dentist will look over the inside of the mouth to check for red or white patches, in addition to mouth sores. They will also feel the tissues inside the mouth to check for abnormalities.
To learn more about how we screen for oral cancer in Miami and how our team screens and assists with patient problems, reach out to Pinecrest Dental today for more information!