Oral Cancer Screening
At Hunter Dental Care, your oral health is our number one priority, which is why we may suggest an oral cancer screening when you come to our office. People who are at a higher risk for oral cancer will benefit from screening, especially those who:
The goal of an oral cancer screening is to detect mouth, lip, and palate cancer. We will also look for precancerous lesions that may lead to the early stages of cancer. Cancer and lesions are easiest to remove when they are in the earliest stages. They also have the highest likelihood of being cured.
What to Expect During Your Screening
An oral cancer screening is broken down into two parts: a visual exam and a physical exam. During the visual exam, Dr. Hunter will exam the face, neck, lips, nasal cavity, and oral cavity. Before the screening, we will ask you to take out all removable dental appliances so we can get a better look at every area. Our goal is to diagnose any asymmetries, masses, swelling, discolorations, or ulcerations. To get a clearer view of the nose and mouth, we typically use a light, mirror, and tongue depressor—similar to a physical at the doctor’s office. We may also use other specialized tools to assess the inner cheeks, palate, tonsils, gums, and throat.
During the physical part of the exam, we will feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps and other abnormalities. This typically happens simultaneously with the visual exam. We may also touch parts of the head and feel around the jaw for abnormal masses or nodules. As we feel around, we will ask whether physical contact is causing any discomfort, as symptoms of oral cancer tend to be painful. This includes a test for rigidity of tissues that are normally mobile. In other instances, painless swelling can also signal an oral health problem.
After Your Oral Cancer Screening
If we discover any signs of mouth cancer or precancerous legions, we will typically recommend a follow-up appointment or a biopsy procedure. During the follow-up appointment, we will check the abnormal area and note if it has changed or grown. During a biopsy procedure, we will remove a sample of cells and send it to a laboratory, where they will determine whether or not cancer cells are present. If you need a biopsy, we may refer you to a specialist.
It is important to remember that an oral cancer screening is precautionary. If we find no abnormalities, you can return to our office as you normally would, usually twice a year. If you use tobacco, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or partake in other risky behaviors, we may recommend further screenings.
After your screening, be sure to ask questions and voice any concerns. Patient education is a major part of reducing your risk for oral cancer. Above all else, an oral cancer screening can put you at ease!
Schedule Your Appointment
If you would like to schedule a screening, call (503) 622-9730 today!