Oral Cancer Screening: An Overview
During an oral cancer screening, Dr. Berger and Dr. Crockett will examine areas of your head and neck, searching for suspicious lumps that could indicate cancer. Using a light, mirror, and gauze pads, he will thoroughly evaluate your lips, inner cheeks, all surfaces of the tongue, floor and roof of the mouth, and tonsils.
In addition, he will note any skin lesions, swelling, masses, or asymmetry of your face. Even the sound of your voice will be considered part of the professional oral cancer screening, since an unusually raspy or hoarse voice could be indicative of a more serious problem.
We strongly believe in self-examination. When you brush and floss your teeth, we recommend that you become familiar with your mouth so that you can identify any changes as they occur. We recommend periodically examining your soft oral tissues, including your tongue’s underside, for lesions.
Some lesions mimic oral cancer, but are non-cancerous. A professional exam is the only way to know for sure.
If you find red, white, purple, or blue-colored areas, you should keep an eye on them for a few weeks. Patients should pay careful attention to a wound in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks. Other things to look for include thick areas on the cheeks, a change of voice, chronic sore throat, and increased difficulty with chewing and swallowing or moving the tongue and jaw.
If you have any of these symptoms, and they do not subside over the course of a few weeks, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Berger or Dr. Crockett. Some lesions mimic oral cancer, but are non-cancerous. A professional exam is the only way to know for sure.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Some of the more common factors that can increase a patient's chance for oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use
- HPV-16 diagnosis
- High alcohol consumption
- Being male
- Being over 55 years of age
- Excess sun exposure to the lips
- Genetic predisposition
- Immune system suppression drugs
If you identify with one or more of these factors, that does not mean that you have oral cancer. However, if you are concerned that you have oral cancer, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with Dr. Berger or Dr. Crockett as soon as possible.
Biopsies and Diagnosis
We will conduct a brush biopsy if we suspect that you may have oral cancer. During this test, we will use a small brush to collect cells on and around the area of concern. A lab will determine whether the brush biopsy sample is cancerous. A positive result indicates that you will require an incision biopsy, in which case Dr. Berger will refer you to a specialist.
Schedule Your Dental Exam
Early detection is key when dealing with oral cancer. During each routine dental exam at our practice, you will receive an oral cancer screening. However, it is also important that you conduct regular self-exams and be aware of changes that occur in your mouth. Contact our practice today to schedule your dental exam with Dr. Berger or Dr. Crockett.