Get out those calendars! An oral cancer screening is one of those regular medical check-ups you absolutely need to have done every year or two. What is that magic phrase? Prevention is better than cure and in no other field is this more appropriate than in medical and oral healthcare, especially when it comes to cancer. In order to increase your awareness of this terrible oral affliction, here are the answers to some of your frequently asked questions:
An oral cancer screening consists of a thorough examination of your mouth for any abnormalities, lesions, growths, leukoplakia (white patches), sores or indications that your oral health, and that of your entire body, is at risk. This is performed by your dentist who will carefully inspect your gums, tongue, pharynx, soft and hard palate, tonsils, throat, cheeks (buccal mucosa) and lips. This periodontist (www.drklevine.com) makes use of the Trimira Identifi 3000 oral cancer screening light, which was developed by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He may also gently palpate the neck and head to feel for any swellings or abnormalities.
Question 2: How often should I go for an oral cancer screening?
As a rule, dentists encourage their patients to have an oral cancer screening every year. This of course varies with your risk factor and so you should mention to him whether you have a family history of cancer (and in particular oral cancer) or are a smoker. These will help your dentist to determine the frequency with which you should receive an oral cancer screening. Since cancer may still be present even if you aren’t showing any symptoms, it is important that you receive regular and thorough checks. Diagnosing cancer in the beginning stages drastically improves your chance of 100% recovery.
Question 3: What happens if my dentist finds something abnormal?
Remember, a screening is not diagnostic in nature, so you won’t know for sure on the day it is performed. Should your dentist find anything suspicious, he will take a scraping of the abnormal region (which doesn’t hurt at all) and send it to a laboratory for testing. You will be informed of the results and of the recommended course of action should you present with anything malignant.
Question 4: What are the risk factors for oral cancer?
There are a number of factors you should mention to the dentist who performs your oral cancer screening. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a family and/or personal history of cancer and your age can all seriously influence your chance of developing this terrible disease. Research has also revealed men to be at a greater risk than females. But, whether you are perfectly healthy or meet one or all of the above-mentioned criteria, you should be aware that oral cancer is a very real threat. Only early detection with an oral cancer screening every year will ensure that you have the greatest chance of survival.