Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What to Expect During Your Oral Cancer Screening

Over 40,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year and many more cases will be diagnosed with dysplasia (pre-cancer).  This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth. Oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in North America. Statistics reveal that more cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in a year than cervical or ovarian cancer, and more people die from oral cancer in a year than from melanoma or cervical cancer. Thankfully approximately 84 percent of oral cancer cases may detected early by a dental professional.

Screening for oral cancer is quick and easy, with no pain or discomfort involved. It's critical for early diagnosis and prevention. It takes less than five minutes, and can be done by our dental hygienist or Dr. Clark. They will be looking for any lumps or abnormalities, red, white or grey areas and/or tenderness.

What You Can Expect

1.     We will physically examine and inspect the outside and inside of your gums and cheeks, extending all the way from top to bottom and front to back. 
2.     We will examine and inspect the floor of your mouth underneath your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
3.     We will touch and inspect your lymph nodes in your neck and jaw, inside and outside of your lips, your major salivary glands as well as your jaw joint (TMJ) and the area around your ears.
4.     We will visually inspect your face for signs of asymmetry or swelling.
5.     We will pull out your tongue with gauze to inspect the sides, top and bottom.
6.     We’ll have you say “ahhh” in order to inspect the back of your mouth and throat.
7.     If there are any abnormal findings, a full review of your smoking and/or drinking habits, your lifestyle and any specific health concerns will be discussed along with a review of the medications you are taking which could affect the condition of your mouth, head or neck area.

Performing an oral cancer self-check
In-between dental visits you can perform a self-check by doing the following:
1.    Purchase an oral mirror available at any drugstore, this will allow you to inspect your mouth easily.
2.    Use a small, bright flashlight that you can easily move around.
3.    Check for any new lumps or bumps or extreme tenderness anywhere in your mouth.  You can touch the tissue between your thumb and forefinger, or press against your face from the outside to try and feel for bumps.  Press beneath your tongue for the bottom of your mouth.
4.    To check your tongue, grasp it with cloth or gauze extending your tongue.  Say “ahhh” to check the back of your throat and tongue.  (You may need someone to help you at this point to get a good look at the back of your throat.)
5.    During your exam watch for discolored areas or spots with unusual texture.  After you have performed a few self-check exams you will be able to tell the difference between what is normal for you and what is not.
6.    If you have any sore spots in your mouth or throat that do not heal within two weeks, or if you have difficulty swallowing please contact us immediately.

If you do see something suspicious, it does not mean you have oral cancer. Only a small number of people with abnormalities will be diagnosed with oral cancer. However, all abnormal areas need further investigation to rule out precancerous or cancerous lesions. This may include a biopsy of the suspicious area.

You can call our office and we will immediately get you in for an exam.  There is no reason to prolong worry.  Ignoring the problem is NOT THE ANSWER.  This month we are offering free Oral Cancer Exams so it’s a great time to schedule an appointment and put your mind at ease.

Schedule your FREE 
Oral Cancer Exam today!
(541) 451-1440

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