ORAL CANCER SCREENING
At National Dental Upper East Side, we aim to provide you with the best care possible. When you come in for your regular exams, which are essential for preventative maintenance, we thoroughly inspect your mouth, checking for signs of decay, gum disease, and other damage. Another important part of your oral exam is the oral cancer screening.
WHAT IS ORAL CANCER?
Oral cancer is a devastating disease that affects over 40,000 people in the United States every year. Of those 40,000, only about half survive past five years. Oral cancer can strike anywhere in the mouth – the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, roof, floor or the entrance to the throat. It can affect all the functions of your mouth, such as eating and speaking. If oral cancer goes undetected for too long, there is very little chance for survival.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR ORAL CANCER?
There are several factors that put you at risk for developing oral cancer. Some you have control over, while others you do not:
- Smoking: Smoking or the use of any tobacco product puts you at serious risk for developing oral cancer. Up to 90% of oral cancer patients were, or still are, smokers.
- Excessive drinking: 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients have been heavy drinkers.
- Age: Older adults are more at risk for oral cancer.
- Family history: You are at greater risk of developing oral cancer if other members of your family have suffered from oral cancer.
- Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR
Part of your biannual dental exams includes an oral cancer screening. During this screening, we check the inside of your mouth, as well as your face and neck, for any signs of oral cancer. However, these signs can show up at any time, not just at your regular visits. So, it is important that you the signs and symptoms be on the lookout for:
- Sores that do not heal, even after two weeks.
- Red or white patches, or any other unusual growths, inside your mouth.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking.
- A change in your bite, or the way your dentures fit.
- Numbness in your chin or jaw.
DIAGNOSING ORAL CANCER AT NATIONAL DENTAL
Our visual inspection of your mouth is only a part of diagnosing oral cancer. If we find anything suspicious in your mouth, further testing will need to be done. This testing may involve X-rays or a soft tissue biopsy. With a biopsy, we take a small sample of the lesion in your mouth so that we can examine it under a microscope. There several types of biopsies, including:
- Incisional, or diagnostic biopsy
- Excisional biopsy, which is used for small lesions. It can also be used to remove the entire lesion if it is small enough.
- Punch biopsy: A special tool is used to remove several layers of tissue. Punch biopsies are often used on lesions at the back of the mouth.
- Brush biopsy: A brush is used to collect cells from the lesion.
With a biopsy, we can diagnose, or rule out oral cancer. Should cancer be detected, we can then take the necessary steps for treatment.
While we check your mouth thoroughly for signs of oral cancer, the disease can strike at any time. If you notice something strange about your mouth, contact National Dental Upper East Side at (646) 736-2206 right away!