Oral Cancer Screenings

Oral Cancer ScreeningsAn oral cancer screening is an examination performed by your dentist to check for signs of cancer in your mouth and neck, known as oropharyngeal cancer. At East Madison Dental, oral cancer screenings form a routine part of every comprehensive and periodic exam. Each year, over 49,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer. When oral cancer is detected in its early stages, it is much more easily treated and, in many cases, curable. 

How is an oral cancer screening done?

During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will look inside your mouth and throat for any unusual growths or lesions. If anything suspicious is noted, your dentist will recommend a biopsy to test for precancerous or cancerous cells. 

Who is at risk for oral cancer?

Oral cancer affects men more than women, although that has been changing. Heavy smoking and alcohol use are the most frequently noted risks associated with oral cancer, however, the human papillomavirus known as HPV has recently been shown to increase risk for oral cancers, especially in men. In fact, three out of four cases of oral cancers are HPV positive. Since there is no test currently available for the HPV virus in men, oral cancer screenings are that much more important in being able to detect any potential complications that may arise from the virus. The most common risk factors for oral cancer are the following:

  • People older than 55
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol in excess
  • Exposure to sunlight for long periods of time
  • Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • An immune system that has been weakened by certain medications
  • Skin disease lichen planus, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) or certain inherited conditions of the blood

What you can do to reduce your risk for oral cancer

In order to reduce your risk for oral cancer, take these steps:

  • Don’t use tobacco in any form. If you do use tobacco, quit.
  • Limit your alcohol intake to a maximum of one or two drinks per day.
  • Always use sunblock when out in the sun, including a lip balm of SPF 30 or higher.
  • If you are eligible, get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12, and up to the ages of 21 in men and 26 in women.
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Check your own mouth regularly for any abnormalities, and tell your dentist or doctor at your regular checkup if you see anything unusual.