How Often Do You Need Oral Cancer Screenings?
Oral cancer screenings are examinations administered by dentists or doctors looking for signs of precancerous or cancerous sores in your mouth. The professionals perform the screening to identify oral cancer early when the chances of a cure are greater if detected. Whenever you visit the dentist near you for your routine dental exam and cleaning, the dentist also includes oral cancer screening during your appointment. You never realize you are undergoing oral cancer screening because the dentist completes the exam within five minutes.
Early detection of mouth cancer improves your chances of receiving successful treatment. It is why many dentists recommend undergoing regular oral cancer screenings to get your entire mouth examined. Available information indicates adults over 20 should have the screening every three years—adults over 40 must have oral cancer screening yearly. In addition, people with risk factors like tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, a family history of cancer, or having human papillomavirus should request yearly oral cancer screenings.
What Does Oral Cancer Screening Involve?
Oral cancer screening in Houston, TX, starts with a clinical exam of your mouth and throat. The dentist will use light, tongue depressor, and mirror to look for abnormalities in your mouth. The exceptions may include patches of color, bumps, swelling, and ulcerations.
The dentist examines all areas of your mouth, including the roof, tonsils, inner cheeks, gums, and tongue. The dentist also palpates the jaw, neck, under the skin and the exterior of the cheeks feeling for unusual masses or nodules.
The dentist may use a special light or dye to evaluate the specific area for oral cancer further if they detect any abnormalities. Standard tests including special light or dye include:
- Using lasers to reflect abnormal tissue, unlike normal tissue.
- Spreading toluidine a blue tint over the suspected abnormal area, which turns blue if abnormal tissue is detected.
- Using acetic acid solutions to rinse your mouth, followed by using a special light to examine abnormal areas.
Dentists recommend adults examine themselves monthly for oral cancer and communicate any anomalies they detect like white patches, lumps, and sores to them for early evaluation.
Is Oral Cancer Screening Essential?
Many organizations differ about whether ordinary people without risk determinants for mouth cancer need oral cancer screening. The reason for the disagreement is because no single owner exam or test has proven it can reduce the risk of dying from oral cancer. However, you and your dentist can decide whether an oral exam or a special test is suitable for you based on your risk factors.
Whether you undergo oral cancer screening requesting for it or receive the examination as a complementary gesture along with your routine dental exam and cleaning, it helps to understand you are indulging in a preventive practice that helps to detect mouth cancer early, giving you access to successful treatments and recovery.
Do You Need to Prepare Separately for Oral Cancer Screening?
Besides visiting your dentist for routine exams and cleaning, no other preparation is required to undergo oral cancer screening. As mentioned earlier, the dentist completes the examination in merely five minutes.
Your dentist cannot determine whether or not you have oral cancer by conducting the examination. Diagnosis of oral cancer requires a biopsy when a sample of tissue in the suspicious area is removed for examination under a microscope. However, the dentist identifies suspicious locations or growths in your mouth that need further evaluation. Therefore it helps if you consider the screening as a preventive measure from the dentist similar to dental prophylaxis to prevent infections in your mouth from developing unknowingly.
If you receive an abnormal oral cancer screening, the dentist has your symptoms evaluated by an experienced oncologist. Oncologists specialists in treating cancer have head and neck cancer programs with multispecialty teams of radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, and other specialties working collaboratively to ensure you receive the best current treatment available and do so early when oral cancer responds well to treatment.
There is no need for you to concern yourself if the dentist recommends you undergo oral cancer screening when attending a regular dental exam and cleaning appointment. The screening does not require more time because the dentist completes it within the time allotted to you. At the end of the screening, you can return to your regular activities with peace of mind that you are perfectly healthy and don’t have any abnormal growths or tissues in your mouth.