More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.
Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes oral cancer exams performed by our dentists critically important.
There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:
It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible.
The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:
The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, your dentist will look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a tool for oral cancer checks. The laser can \"look\" below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.
If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan. In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed. The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.
During bi-annual check-ups, your dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.