Oral Cancer Screening May Save Your Life
Screening for oral cancer is a servive that we routinely perform for all our patients due to the fact that cancer, if detected early enough, is curable. If detected too late, though, the survival rate of people suffering from oral cancer is severely impacted.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Tobacco and alcohol have been found to be the main causes of oral cancer. Other contributing factors include malnutrition, chronic bacterial or viral infections, poor oral hygiene, rough tooth surfaces and chronic irritation due to dentures that don’t fit correctly – or a combination of these.
How We Detect Oral Cancer
As your periodontist I will do a thorough exam of your mouth and all the anatomical structures of it when you visit as part of the oral cancer screening. We will chat about your health and I will ask questions about your ability to chew and swallow, whether you have any problems that keep recurring like a sore throat, hoarseness or any mouth sores that you know of that won’t heal properly. I will examine parts of your mouth like your teeth, gums, tongue, palate, lips and cheeks; looking for discolored patches like white or red oral tissue, spots that contain both colors, and sores and lumps in the mouth tissue. I will also examine your neck for lumps.
Remember that not all lumps or lesions are cancerous! Therefore, if I recommend that we do a biopsy because I have found an abnormality, it means that I am just being extra careful and would rather have us be safe than sorry! Sometimes a lesion might just be a harmless cyst or one caused by trauma to the mouth, an overgrowth of tissue or irritated tissue.
A biopsy will entail that I give you local anesthesia and then make an incision to remove some or all of the tissue in question. This tissue will then be sent to a pathologist, who will examine it under a microscope and will provide me with feedback. During your follow-up appointment with me, we will then discuss the report from the pathologist, and if necessary, set up a treatment plan specific to your needs.
You might experience a little soreness for a couple of days after a biopsy. You will be able to return to your normal activities right away though, and normal pain medication will do the trick if you need them!