A screening test can be a routine part of a medical or dental checkup. Cancer screenings are often performed even if you are not exhibiting any concerning symptoms. The goal of any type of cancer screening is to identify abnormalities or warning signs that could indicate cancer or a precancerous condition. With oral cancer and all other types of cancer, the goal of a screening test is to catch the disease early enough to have the best possible chance of treating it.
What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?
We screen for oral cancer during routine dental checkups by thoroughly examining your mouth for any lesions, sores, red or white patches, lumps, or other abnormalities. Since oral cancer often spreads to the lymph nodes before it is even caught, we might also check your throat and neck.
If we find lesions in your mouth during the routine examination, we will either perform or order further diagnostic tests. Some additional oral cancer screening tests include blue dye tests, in which you rinse your mouth with a blue dye that will stain any abnormal cells; fluorescent light tests, in which you rinse with a special mouthwash that will illuminate abnormal cells when viewed with a special light; and biopsies, in which we remove cells from the oral lesions we found during the initial exam.
Who Benefits from an Oral Cancer Screening?
The death rate for oral cancer is particularly high compared to other common types of cancers such as cervical cancer and testicular cancer since oral cancer is often not discovered until later stages of development. It is not proven that oral cancer screening saves lives, but the goal of any cancer screening is to find and treat cancer as early as possible. There are certain groups who have a higher risk of developing oral cancer and could therefore benefit more from oral cancer screenings. These include people who smoke, heavy drinkers, and people who have been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV). Contact us today to learn more about oral cancer.