According to the National Cancer Institute, 30,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with oral cancer—more than two-thirds are men; almost all of them are over 60. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that dentists now have tools to help them screen for and detect oral cancer early. When caught early, oral cancer is more likely to respond to treatment and much less likely to spread to other parts of the body. Oral cancer screening tools involve medical tests and procedures that are fast, easy for the dentist to administer and painless for the patient.
Oral Cancer Screening Procedures Include:
- Your dental provider spreading a dye over an abnormal area. If the dye leaves a blue stain, more testing may be advised.
- Your dental provider inspecting the soft tissue of the mouth using advanced technology such as the VELscope. VELscope is a cutting edge device that allows dentists to identify cancerous and pre-cancerous tissue before they are visible to the naked eye—and in many cases before they can be detected by other oral cancer screening tools.
While it is true and encouraging that oral cancer screening tools are safe and effective, they are most beneficial for prevention and early detection. Communicate to your dental provider and take measures to work together by doing the following:
- Watch closely for symptoms of oral cancer, which include lumps, bumps or red spots on the lips and gums; unexplained bleeding from the mouth; and unexplained soreness in the back of the throat, mouth or neck. If any of these symptoms are present, an appointment to be examined by a dentist should be scheduled immediately.
- Be sure to schedule regular teeth cleaning and dental exams during which the dentist will exam and look for any abnormal tissue on the lips, in the mouth and around the tongue.
- Request an oral cancer exam, as recommended by the American Cancer Society, during your routine visits.
Oral cancer affects the lives of thousands of Americans every year. However, with a strong partnership between patients and their dentists—and assistance from new oral cancer screening tools and technology—early detection is possible and fewer people will be affected in the future.