While oral cancer screenings haven’t been proven by studies to lower the risk of dying from oral cancer, we prefer to do them anyway at Dipika T Shah, DDS, LLC., in Holmdel, NJ. After all, they only take about 5 minutes and are harmless.
Why is screening important? Any cancer, not just oral cancer, detected an early stage means a better prognosis and survival. That’s why there are screening protocols for many cancers like those affecting the cervix, breast, and colon.
Risk factors are things that increase a person’s odds of getting a disease. In this case, these are things that make a person more likely to get oral cancer. The most prominent risk factor for oral cancer is the use of tobacco. This includes tobacco in all of its forms.
Heavy drinking, excessive exposure to sunlight, and positive history for oral cancer are other prominent risk factors. Controlling or eliminating these factors will lower a person’s risk of getting oral cancer and make it similar to that of the general population.
During an oral cancer screening, we look for ulcers, lumps, and red or white patches. We need to look in places that are easily visualized as well as those that are hidden under the tongue or the roof of the mouth. A proper source of light is needed. We might insinuate a finger under your tongue to feel for irregularities, but that should only take a few seconds.
If nothing is found, then you’re free to go. These screenings are commonly done during checkups, and most patients are free. We might also notice abnormalities that seem benign, in which case we’ll ask you to come back in a few weeks to see what happens.
Abnormalities that look like cancer or don’t go away in a few weeks will need more tests. To diagnose cancer, we’ll have to take a sample of tissue from the lesion and send it to a lab. Before the lab sends us the results saying that it’s cancer, a diagnosis can’t be made, so there’s no reason to panic.
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