Oral cancer screening, the key to early detection of oral cancers
The American Dental Association recommends people get dental exams at least twice a year, to have their teeth cleaned professionally and to check for any signs of tooth decay and gum diseases. However, at Jonathan J. Golab, DDS, PA, we also use these visits to check for signs of oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screening is an examination performed by Dr. Jonathan Golab to look for precancerous conditions or signs of cancer in your mouth. The goal is to identify mouth cancer in its early stages so that there is a greater chance for successful treatment.
Causes of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer occurs when the DNA of the cells of our mouth area mutate. This mutation results in abnormal, unchecked growth of cells that keep multiplying even when healthy cells die. The accumulation of cells results in a tumor which spreads inside the mouth and to other regions, like the neck and head.
Science has not yet been able to determine the exact causes of the cell mutation that leads to oral cancers. However, there are many identified factors that increase the chances of mouth cancer, including:
- Drinking excessively.
- Chewing or consuming smokeless tobacco products.
- Chewing on betel nut.
- Prolonged exposure to the sun.
- Some forms of human papillomavirus.
- An unbalanced diet that is low in vegetables and fruit.
- History of oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Screening Process
Before we perform your examination, we will review your medical history to check if you have been diagnosed with a disease or take certain medications.
The screening process includes:
We will examine areas both inside and outside your mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheek, the palate, the floor of the mouth, salivary glands and other soft tissues. It also includes a physical exam of the head and neck region. Some symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Velvety red or white patches.
- Sore or lesion that doesn’t heal and/or bleed profusely.
- Thickened, crusted area.
- A hard lump.
- Persistent sores on the mouth, face, and neck.
- Unexplained tingling or numbing sensation in the mouth.
- Change in your bite.
- Soreness of the throat and hoarse voice.
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
- Chronic ear pain.
If a suspicious area is found in your mouth or neck region, we will perform a biopsy and remove a sample of your cells to conduct laboratory testing. We may use a needle or a cutting tool to take a sample. In the lab, the sample is analyzed for precancerous or cancerous signs.
Determining the Cancer Stage
If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, we will determine the extent of the disease. This will include:
- Endoscopy: We will use a small camera with a light to check your throat for signs that the disease has spread to the mouth.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests can help determine whether the cancer has spread beyond the mouth. These tests include x-rays, MRI, CT, and PET scans. We will determine which test is appropriate for you.
Mouth cancer stages range from I to IV. A stage I cancer means the disease has not yet spread and is confined to a single area. A stage IV cancer means the disease has metastasized and spread to other areas. The stages of cancer can help us determine which treatment option is best for you.
Detecting oral cancer at home can be very difficult as a lot of problem areas don’t start hurting until the disease has advanced. Having regular dental checkups can help us catch oral cancer in its early stages and recommend appropriate treatment.
If you feel a change in your mouth, don’t hesitate to call us at (469) 444-2119 to schedule a dental check-up appointment today.