Friday, March 06, 2020

How Often Should I Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening?

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral Cancer is not only confined to the mouth, as the name would lead you to believe. Oral cancer is the most common form of head and neck cancer meaning it can begin anywhere in the mouth, tongue, lips, throat and sinuses. It is also a cancer that can often go overlooked, as the most common symptom of oral cancer is often an ulcer or sore which lasts for over three weeks.

Many documents link smoking and certain lifestyle habits to oral cancer, yet the condition is equally as common in non-smokers and those who do not consume alcohol. However limiting these habits, or better still cutting them out of your lifestyle altogether could greatly reduce the risk of you getting any form of oral cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

As stated above, the most common symptom of oral cancer is a sore or ulcer within the mouth that is still there after three weeks. Whilst this may not necessarily mean you have oral cancer it is always best to get a lingering sore checked out by your dentist.

Other symptoms of Oral cancer can mimic that of other conditions, so just because you may have one of the ailments named below, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have oral cancer.

Other symptoms may include:
  • Difficulty or pain with chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • White patches or red patches that do not go away
  • Numbness or bleeding in the mouth
  • Ill-fitting, loose teeth or dentures
  • Thickening or a lump in the mouth or on the lip
  • Losing a lot of weight over a short period.
  • A lump in the neck
If you are concerned about any of the above symptoms please contact your local dental clinic to schedule an Oral Cancer Screening.

How Can an Oral Cancer Screening Save My Life?

We are all sadly well aware of the devastating effects cancer can have on a person and their families. We also know that the key to surviving cancer is finding and treating it at its earliest stages, so awareness of the symptoms and knowledge of how to get an oral cancer screening is paramount for treatment success. In fact, 80-90 per cent of oral cancer sufferers have a great survival rate when the cancer is caught early. However once the cancer is in its advanced stages that survival rate drops significantly to 20-30 per cent.

Is Oral Cancer Screening Painful?

Oral cancer screenings typically are not painful. The screening process is mainly made up of a visual inspection, where a dentist will inspect your mouth, throat, gums and tongue for any unusual signs. If your dentist finds anything suspicious then typically biopsies of the area will be taken, with your consent, and sent to the lab for testing. You will then usually get a follow-up appointment to talk through your results.

How Often Should I Schedule Oral Cancer Screening?

It’s recommended that you see your dentist at least once a year for a regular check-up, however there is no definite timeline when it comes to booking an oral cancer screening. For people over the age of 18 who smoke or drink heavily, it is advised that they attend a screening more regularly than those who don’t. It is recommended to receive screening every 3-5 years unless you have cause for concern, in which case it’s advised to book a screening as soon as a problem arises. Some Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer are:
  • Gender (oral cancer is more common in males than females)
  • Age (over 40s are at greater risk)
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Any kind of tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A previous oral cancer diagnosis
You should contact your dentist as soon as possible if you experience any of the symptoms we mentioned earlier that can be found above.

This is a post by Bohdan Hrynyk, a family practice dentist working in Niagara Falls Ontario.

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