The American Cancer Society forecasts about 54,000 new cases of oral cancer in 2023, with a fatality rate of about one in 10. As with many other cancers, oral cancers often give away signs of their presence before you start to experience symptoms. Oral cancer screenings act as an early warning system for cancer prevention.
At RR Dentistry in Georgetown, Texas, we perform oral cancer screening as part of our regular dental exams. If you’re at high risk for oral cancer, we can also provide you with dedicated screening sessions.
In most cases, when we find oral cancers early, the chances of successful treatment skyrocket. Here’s what to expect at an oral cancer screening.
Why we perform oral cancer screening
Some types of oral cancer create precancerous lesions. If we discover them early, they can be removed before cells become cancerous. These cancers generally don’t produce symptoms until they reach advanced stages, a point where successful treatment becomes more difficult.
While everyone receives an oral cancer screening during a regular dental exam, you may benefit from more intensive screening when you have certain circumstances that increase your risk of oral cancer. These risk factors include:
- Tobacco use in any form, including cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and pipe tobacco
- Extensive sun exposure (lip cancer)
- Heavy, prolonged intake of alcohol
- Previous cases of oral cancer
There’s been a rise in the number of oral cancer cases in recent years. While the reason isn’t yet clear, some researchers suspect that human papillomavirus (HPV) may play a role.
What to expect at your oral cancer screening
Chances are that you’ve already had an oral cancer screening. It’s a routine part of dental exams. Often, your practitioner holds your tongue and feels around the base of your mouth. They’re checking for unusual patches of color, bumps, sores, or swelling — anything that seems out of place.
There’s an external exam, too, in which we examine your face, mouth, and neck from the outside to pinpoint any irregularities like bumps or nodules. These can be tender or painful, but that’s usually the case only in advanced stages of cancer; they feel like benign lumps in the early stages.
At RR Dentistry, we also add VELscope® screening. This enhanced oral assessment tool consists of a blue light emitter and an optical filter eyepiece. The combination of a specifically tuned light wave and complementary filter causes mucosal tissue to fluoresce.
Abnormalities stand out against this fluorescence, including precancerous lesions and a wide range of other oral conditions like cancers, infections, inflammations, and injuries. It’s easy to spot any irregularity during a brief exam.
Call or click to book a dental exam or a dedicated oral cancer screening with RR Dentistry in Georgetown. We’re standing by to help you with a short, comfortable procedure to ensure your oral health.