Sadly, an estimated 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. You may think you’re not at risk if you don’t drink alcohol or smoke, but even people without these risk factors have been diagnosed more frequently in recent years. As with all cancers, early detection is key. It’s also easier than you might think to get an oral cancer screening in Florham Park because they’re included in your dental checkups! Everyone knows their dentist takes care of their teeth, but may not realize it can save their life as well. Keep reading to learn more the risk factors for this disease and what you can expect from a screening.
What Are the Risk Factors For Oral Cancer?
- Alcohol and tobacco use (especially when used together)
- HPV (the human papillomavirus) – HPV has been attributed to cases of oral cancer in young people without a history of smoking or drinking alcohol
- A diet low in fruits, vegetables and antioxidants such as vitamin C
- Age (people over 40 have the greatest risk)
What Can You Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening?
Since cancer isn’t painful in its early stages, you can’t rely on symptoms alone to alert you that something might be wrong. That’s why getting screened is so important.
Fortunately, both dentists and dental hygienists perform an oral cancer screening at every checkup, which involves a visual examination of all the soft tissues in the oral cavity and may include gentle palpations of the neck.
Although every provider does their screenings a bit differently, here are the basic steps:
- To see the back of the throat, you may be asked to stick out your tongue and say, “Ahhhh.”
- Next, the roof of the mouth, insides of the cheeks and underneath the tongue will be examined.
- You might also be asked move your tongue from side-to-side.
- Your lips are a common spot for a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, so they’ll be visually checked as well.
To be proactive, be sure to schedule an appointment if you notice any lumps or bumps that don’t go away on their own within 2 weeks. Other symptoms to be aware of are difficulty swallowing or chewing, swollen tissues in the jaw or throat, red or white patches that don’t go away, or a chronic sore throat.
However, it’s important to note that it’s normal to get the occasional canker sore or cold sore, and there are many kinds of harmless lumps and bumps. Don’t panic if you notice something!
And again, if you have any doubts at all, don’t hesitate to schedule an evaluation any time. Remember, early detection saves lives!
About the Author
Dr. John Carollo is a family dentist in Florham Park and a native of New Jersey who provides his community with outstanding, comprehensive dental care. He takes oral cancer detection very seriously and always performs thorough screenings at every checkup. If you have any other questions, he can be reached via his website or at (973) 377-5117.