Nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer this year. In addition, nearly 10,000 Americans will die from this deadly cancer this year, about one person every hour. Having an oral cancer screening can help you avoid becoming one of them.
The main purpose of an oral cancer test is to identify the disease early and give you your best chance of treating it.
Take control of your health. Here’s everything you need to know about receiving an oral cancer screening:
What Is an Oral Cancer Screening?
Briefly, an oral cancer test is an exam performed by a dentist or doctor. The goal is to look for signs of oral cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth.
In fact, you may have received an oral cancer screening without realizing it. Many dentists will routinely inspect a patient’s mouth during a cleaning or dental procedure for signs of oral cancer.
The dentist checks for mouth sores or red or white patches inside the mouth. He or she may also use gloved hands to check for lumps in your mouth tissues.
Some dentists or doctors will perform additional tests to detect abnormal cells in your mouth.
Overall, it is a quick and painless procedure. There is no special preparation required for an oral cancer screening.
Are Oral Cancer Screenings Necessary?
Some medical professionals argue that screenings for oral cancer aren’t necessary mainly because they’re not 100% effective.
For starters, a screening isn’t able to find all forms of mouth cancer. You aren’t always able to detect abnormal cells just by looking in the mouth.
In some cases, dentists or doctors could discover a mouth sore and request additional tests at the (often unnecessary) expense of the patient.
Many people develop sores in the mouth, and it’s not easy to tell which ones are cancerous and which ones are not.
Also, there’s no sufficient evidence that oral cancer tests reduce the number of deaths associated with the disease. The idea is that the earlier patients discover cancer, the sooner they can seek treatment.
If you’re visiting your dentist, rest assured an oral cancer screening is usually part of the exam. There’s nothing extra required on your part. It doesn’t cost you extra.
And even though it isn’t foolproof, it can still help with early detection.
How Often Should I Get Tested for Oral Cancer?
It’s recommended you receive an oral cancer screening at least once per year.
Most people visit their dentist twice a year for routine cleanings. If you receive an oral cancer screening during each cleaning, you’re on the right path.
However, if you smoke or have a family medical history of cancer, you may need to receive screenings more frequently.
Talk to your dentist or health care provider to see what they recommend.
Oral cancer is a deadly yet preventable disease that claims the lives of thousands of Americans each year. By keeping up with routine screenings, you’re giving yourself the best chance of not becoming one of them.
We provide all our patients with oral cancer screening with each cleaning. Schedule your appointment today and stay on track to a healthy life.