Oral Cancer Exam
According to the American Cancer Society, over 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, with over 7000 of these cases resulting in the death of the patient. Fortunately, oral cancer can be diagnosed with an annual cancer exam provided by the dentist. If caught early, oral cancer can be effectively treated.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process, which begins by producing no symptoms making it hard to recognize without an exam. There are many types of oral cancer, including teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common form of oral cancer is malignant squamous cell carcinoma, which typically originates in the lip and mouth tissue. There are many other places in which oral cancers occur, including: the tongue, salivary glands, throat, gums, and face.
What to Expect
The oral cancer examination is completely painless. The dentist will look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers may be used to highlight pathologic changes, and can “look” below the surface for sing and legions invisible to the naked eye. Some of the signs that will be investigated are red patches and sores. Red patches on the floor of the mouth, or the front of the tongue, and bleeding sores which fail to heal easier, can be indicative of cancerous changes. Leukoplakia is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear inside the mouth, and may be cancerous. Signs of these will be examined as well. Finally, soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathologic signs, and will be examined.
If abnormalities, lesions, lumps, or leukoplakia are apparent, the dentist will implement a treatment plan that is right for you. Treatment options vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include: excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
It is also important to note that over 75% of oral cancers are linked with avoidable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption. The dentist can provide you with literature and options about quitting dangerous behaviors such as tobacco use.