By: Dr. Christopher Lim
Posted on: August 9, 2019
Many people are familiar with cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and other parts of the body, but don’t think about the possibility of oral cancer. Like screening for breast cancer or colorectal cancer, screening procedures to detect oral cancers are available. The screening procedure is convenient, fast, and can be performed by your dentist during your routine hygiene visit. Dr. Christopher Lim in Las Vegas, NV takes the overall health and well-being of his patients seriously and provides oral cancer screening services to help detect oral cancer at the earliest stage possible.
Oral cancer, like other cancers, is caused by cells that grow uncontrollably, which can eventually invade and damage or kill your body’s mouth tissues or spread to other parts of your body.
Typically, oral cancer looks like a sore or a growth in your mouth that doesn’t heal or go away. These spots are called lesions and can develop in any part of your mouth or throat, such as your cheeks, tongue, lips, sinus cavities, and palates. If oral cancer is not treated at an early stage, it can metastasize throughout your body and become life-threatening.
While anyone can get oral cancer, your risk is higher if you have certain conditions or behaviors:
Use of tobacco products: Smoking, chewing tobacco, and snuff are all dangerous, and tobacco users are up to 50 times more likely to get oral cancer than people who don’t use tobacco
Age and gender: Men are about two times more likely to get oral cancer than women, and if you are over age 50, your risk is greater
Heavy alcohol consumption: People who drink are about 6 times more likely to get oral cancer
Sun exposure: If you have been heavily exposed to the sun, your risk is greater
Family cancer history: If members of your family have had cancer, you may be at a greater risk for developing oral cancer
What to expect during your oral cancer screening procedure Oral cancer screenings are performed to catch any possible cancers at the earliest stage possible so that they can be treated before they progress to later, more harmful stages.
Most oral cancer screenings are done during regular preventive care trips to your dentist. At these hygiene visits, in addition to professionally cleaning your teeth and examining your overall oral health, the dentist will perform the oral cancer screening procedure. No special preparation is needed in advance of the screening, and it is quick to complete.
The dentist will look for the following symptoms that can indicate oral cancer:
Patches in your mouth that look white, red, or speckled and have a velvety texture
In addition to visually checking for the above symptoms, the dentist will also put on gloves and feel inside your mouth to determine if there are any possible cancerous or pre-cancerous spots. The dentist may also ask if you have any of these other oral cancer symptoms:
Numbness, tingling, pain, or loss of feeling in any parts of your neck or mouth
Sores that have lasted longer than 2 weeks
A feeling of tightness in the back of your throat
A chronic sore throat, ear pain, change in your voice, or hoarseness
Unexplained weight loss
What happens next if signs of oral cancer are found If the dentist finds any possible cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions in your mouth, they will recommend the best next steps based on what is found. A follow-up appointment may be advised to check the spot in a few weeks to see if it has improved, or you may need to get a biopsy done to determine if the cells are indeed cancerous. Your dentist will discuss the best course of action with you and what to expect.
Dr. Christopher Lim and his associates at Hillside Dental provide compassionate, thorough dental care to help maintain your overall health and detect any issues before they become harder to treat. Protect your oral health and overall well-being today by calling (702) 666-8584 to schedule your preventive care and oral cancer screening visit.