Part of a thorough dental cleaning and exam is checking for signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Early detection is the key to a swift diagnosis and timely, potentially life-saving treatment. We’ll check your entire oral cavity and maxillofacial regions annually to stay on top of any signs or changes that seem suspicious. Bi-annually we will recheck for any differences from your prior checkup.
Where can oral cancer occur?
-Oropharyngeal region (throat)
What are you looking for during the oral cancer exam?
-Red patches/sores – These may be found on the front and sides of the tongue and/or on the floor of the mouth. We also look for pink or white patches which won’t heal or sores that fester and bleed.
-Leukoplakia – Hardened white or gray lesion that is raised slightly that may be anywhere inside the mouth.
-Lumps – Thickening of tissue that may be sore or tender, found anywhere in the mouth or throat.
What if I don’t notice any signs of oral cancer?
Early stages of many types of oral cancer may be asymptomatic. That’s why we take proactive steps to seek out abnormalities you may not realize exist.
What is the exam like?
There will be no pain during the process. Dr. Bowen or the dental hygienist will feel your face and glands for any lumps, bumps, or other warning signs. We may use a laser for a look beneath the surface for lesions undetectable to the naked eye. If any abnormalities are detected, a treatment plan will be put into place, with a biopsy of the area when necessary. Swift treatment is vital since malignant types of cancer can spread to other areas of the oral and maxillofacial regions. Under the care of an oral cancer specialist, treatment may include excision, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.