Oral Cancer Screening
All cancers are characterized by the abnormal growth of cells as compared to cells in the surrounding tissue. An oral cancer screening is an examination carried out by a dental professional to identify such changes in or around the mouth. It is done to detect cancer in its early or precancerous stages when a cure is more likely. Either during a routine dental checkup or based on personal request, our dental professionals at Peninsula Family Dental Center carry out oral cancer screening as well as additional tests to detect abnormal cell growth in the mouth. From children to the elderly, everyone is encouraged to have a regular oral cancer screening.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Having knowledge of your risk level and informing our dental professionals about them are important to determine the frequency of oral cancer screening you should have. The risk factors for oral cancer include, but are not limited to, excessive ultraviolet ray exposure, high alcohol consumption, any form of tobacco use, age, a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, poor oral hygiene, poor nutrition, genetics, a previous oral cancer diagnosis, and lowered immunity.
What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening Test
An oral cancer screening occurs in two different categories, which are oral cavity screening and pharyngeal screening. For oral cavity screening, the dental professional visibly checks and then palpates the inner and outer parts of the lips, the gums, inside of the cheeks, the top and sides of as well as underneath the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the hard palate, the soft palate, and the tissues behind the lips up and down to where the mucosa meets the gums. The soft tissues, including the tonsillar area in the pharynx at the back of the mouth where the tonsils are found, are examined.
For a better look at an area, you might be required to rinse with a blue dye known as toluidine blue dye. Abnormal cells in the mouth absorb this dye, which allows better visibility. If we notice anything unusual, another appointment might be scheduled to observe any changes in the area. Our dental professional might also proceed to carry out a biopsy or refer you to another professional who can perform a biopsy of the area. During a biopsy, a small piece of the abnormal tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory to further test for cancer.
Not all oral cancers can be detected during oral cancer screening since cellular changes first occur microscopically before they become obvious to the naked eye. Therefore, a small cancerous area or precancerous growth can go unnoticed. Not all sores or ulcers in the mouth are oral cancers but may need to be proved otherwise by laboratory tests. There is no medical proof that oral cancer screenings reduce deaths from cancer. However, it enables the discovery of oral cancers while there is a better chance of a good outcome.
Being a short procedure with little inconvenience, an oral cancer screening gives room for proactive diagnosis of cancer. It is inexpensive since there is no extra cost when it is performed as a part of your regular dental check-up. To schedule your oral cancer screening, call us today at Peninsula Family Dental Center via (907) 283-9125.