April 12, 2024

Spotlight on Oral Health: Understanding Oral Cancer Exams

2 min read

Oral cancer is an abnormal multiplication of cells in your body that can lead to abnormal tissue growth and lumps. Getting yourself screened early for oral cancer can favor your prognosis and aid in effective and successful treatment. Because any cancer at the early stage is curable. Oral cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer of the body, owing to genetic predisposition, several unhealthy habits, and the presence of infections. They may present with a high fatality rate due to a lack of early diagnosis.  

However, the East Charlotte General Dentist and their dental team offer a compassionate approach towards oral cancer screening at an early stage when the disease is most curable.

What is meant by oral cancer? 

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is a common form of head and neck cancer. It forms in the oral cavity and develops when cells begin to multiply and mutate abnormally.  

Oral cancer can develop in the following parts of your oral cavity:

  • Lips
  • The floor and roof of your mouth
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Salivary glands
  • Oropharynx (throat)
  • Face 
  • Cheek lining 

Why is oral cancer screening essential?

The goal of oral cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer or any precancerous lesions (overgrowths that may lead to cancer or malignancy) at an early stage. This is because cancer at the initial stage is easiest to treat and most likely cured, improving your quality of life.

What are the warning signs of oral cancer?

The alarming signs of oral cancer include:

  • Red patches on the floor of your mouth that fail to heal. 
  • Slow-healing sores that bleed easily 
  • Hardened white or gray, raised lesions inside your mouth (leukoplakia)
  • Presence of sore lumps or thickenings in your mouth or throat
  • Inability to open your mouth completely
  • Loss of taste
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
About 75% of people develop oral cancer due to the following habits:

  • A family history 
  • Smoking 
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun without sun protection
  • History of human papillomavirus (HPV)

What does an oral cancer screening include?

Your dentist may use a combination of oral cancer exam methods that include the following:

Screening tests 

  • Recording medical and family history
  • Conducting  physical exam
  • Performing a palpation test to check for lumps or bumps
  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests, including X-rays, MRI, and CT scan

Specialized tests 

  • Fluorescent light test
  • Exfoliative cytology

Regular annual oral cancer screening is important since it aids in early detection. Early signs of cancer can be detected during regular dental exams. However, if required your dentists may recommend additional tests like biopsy for a definite diagnosis.

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