Oral Cancer Screening: The life saving decision
A simple screening procedure by your dentist can protect you from the consequences of the sixth most common cancer, oral cancer. More than 34,000 new oral cancer cases are diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, without early intervention, the disease results in more than 8,000 deaths annually. Although patients over the age of 45 are at the greatest risk for oral cancer, the disease can strike at any age.
There are some genetic risk factors that account for many oral cancer cases, but there is an increased risk for those patients who use tobacco (in any form), those who fail to use sun-protection, and those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Habits that traumatize or irritate the soft tissues (like lip-biting or cheek-biting and poorly-fitting dentures) are also known to increase the risk of cancer.
Oral cancer can be found in the bones and soft tissues of the mouth such as the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, or soft palate. These areas can be visualized during your regular dental checkups as your dentist looks for suspicious lumps, bumps, or other changes in the appearance or texture of the tissues.
If a suspicious area is detected, a biopsy will be necessary to confirm the nature of the lesion. Essentially, screening is a tool used to identify abnormal tissues, but a biopsy can determine if the lesion is cancerous.
Your biopsy will be performed by an experienced oral surgeon. Typically, if the lesion is found to be cancerous, the oral surgery procedure to remove it can also be performed under the care of your oral surgeon. If indicated, other treatments may be recommended as well.
In the very earliest stages, it is virtually impossible to detect oral cancer on your own. Fortunately, by taking advantage of professional oral cancer screening, you’ll have access to an early diagnosis and the appropriate treatment. If you would like to schedule your annual screening, start by calling Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center to make an appointment today.