The purpose of an oral cancer screening is to detect precancerous conditions of the mouth early while they are easier to treat. The exam can be performed as part of a routine dental visit.
Who Should Be Screened?
There are no standardized guidelines regarding how often individuals without specific risk factors should be screened for oral cancer. Those most at risk of developing oral cancers include
• individuals who drink heavily,
• people with a prior history of oral cancer, and
• individuals with a history of excessive sun exposure.
A dentist can help you evaluate your individual risk for oral cancer and whether a screening is right for you.
What is Involved?
The dentist will start by checking the mouth for red or white patches or lesions. They will also use a gloved hand to feel the tissue inside the mouth to identify any bumps or other abnormalities. In some cases, the dentist may ask you to rinse with a special dye or use a light to make it easier to identify abnormal tissue. If the dentist finds a suspicious area, they may ask you to come back in a few weeks to see if the spot has resolved, grown, or otherwise changed. You may also undergo a biopsy to remove a small sample of cells for closer examination under a microscope.
Things to Consider:
It is not always possible to identify precancerous lesions or small cancers simply by looking at them, so some cancers can go undetected. The exam also cannot distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous sores, which can lead to further testing. Finally, there is a debate in the dental community over the effectiveness of oral cancer screenings. There is not conclusive evidence that the screenings actually prevent deaths from oral cancer; however, it may improve the likelihood that a cancer will be detected early and increase the chances of a cure.
We are proud to offer a full range of dental services for patients in Chandler, Gilbert, and the surrounding areas. Contact our office at (480) 306-5506 to schedule an appointment.