Have you ever had an oral cancer screening?
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 51,540 people in the United States will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2018. When caught in the initial stages, treatment can be highly effective — which is why we recommend regular screenings.
This April, in support of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah encourage you to learn more about this potentially deadly disease, and if you aren’t already doing so, to start performing regular self-checks at home.
The Importance of Monthly Cancer Self-Screening
Once every month, perform a self-check. Grab a mirror, head to a well-lit room and look for the following warning signs:
- White, red or speckled patches in the mouth
- Abnormal lumps or thickened tissues in the mouth or neck
- Bleeding sores that won’t heal
- Asymmetry in the face, mouth or neck
Be aware, too, that some other symptoms may point to the need for a professional cancer screening. Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue may be warning signs of a developing problem. The same goes for chronic hoarseness, ear pain, unexplained weight loss and a difference in the way the teeth fit together.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, make an appointment with a local oral surgeon as soon as possible for a professional screening.
Do You Need Professional Oral Cancer Screening?
Your suspicious symptoms may or may not be caused by oral pathology or cancer, but only a medical professional can tell for sure.
A professional oral cancer screening involves a thorough examination of the mouth tissues as well as the nasopharynx and larynx. The lymph nodes and neck are also checked for swelling and lumps or masses.
If lesions or abnormal tissues are detected, your oral surgeon may employ one or more diagnostic procedures before establishing or ruling out a cancer diagnosis. Toluidine blue staining, fluorescence staining, exfoliative cytology and brush biopsy are among the screening tests that oral surgeons commonly employ for this purpose.
Does Routine Oral Cancer Screening Pose Any Risks?
Monthly self-checks and regular professional screenings can detect early warning signs of pathology, allowing patients to seek treatment before the disease has a chance to spread. However, screening comes with some risks, albeit negligible ones.
Oral cancer screening tests can occasionally result in false-negative and false-positive results and misdiagnosis can occur. And the research does not prove that finding and treating the disease will improve the patient’s health or lifespan in every case.
That said, for most patients, the benefits of pathology screening outweigh the risks. Until scientists develop a cure, being proactive about oral health offers the best chance of successfully fighting oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. The best way to determine whether you should have professional screening is to talk to your oral surgeon.
For professional oral cancer screening in the Salt Lake City area, schedule an appointment with Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Our board-certified oral surgeons, Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, are highly trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating a wide range of oral health conditions. We can discuss the benefits of professional evaluation and show you how to complete your monthly self-examinations. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to schedule a consultation for professional oral cancer screening.