The Importance Of Oral Cancer Screenings
Oral or mouth cancer occurs when a tumor develops in areas of the mouth like on the surface of the tongue, the palate, the lips, the gums, or inside of the cheeks. Although less common, tumors can also develop on the tonsils, the pharynx, or the glands that produce saliva.
Abnormal growths or lumps inside the mouth are common signs of mouth cancer, but loose teeth, ulcers that don’t heal, mouth or ear pain, and difficulty swallowing can also be symptoms. These symptoms are not always related to cancer, however, and can be evidence of other conditions. That’s why oral cancer screenings by your dentist are so important.
The Causes Of Oral Cancers
The development of oral cancer may be caused by the following factors:
- Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes has been proven to make it up to six times more likely for patients to develop oral cancer.
- People who chew, dip, or snuff tobacco products are more likely to develop cheek and gum cancers.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Too much sun exposure without the appropriate protection
- A family history of cancer
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
The Importance of Frequent Check-Ups
An oral cancer screening only takes a few minutes and is easily performed during your routine dental appointment. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams for people over the age of 20 every 3 years, and annually for people over the age of 40.
This screening is important to carry out as recommended because the earlier the problem is detected, the faster the treatment can begin, and the cancer is less likely to spread and get worse.
The Oral Screening Process
The basic exam takes less than 5 minutes and consists of putting one or two fingers in your mouth to feel if there are any lumps or irregular tissue, examining the inside and outside of your lips, gums, tongue, the roof of your mouth, the back of your throat and inside your cheeks. We will also try to visually locate sores or discolored tissue in the oral cavity, head, neck, or face.
If you have questions about oral cancer screenings or would like more information, please feel free to call our Terre Haute office, and we will be happy to help you.