Oral cancer can have serious and even fatal consequences. Fortunately, when you receive an early diagnosis, there is a high likelihood that you will be able to beat the disease. For this reason, every time you come in for a routine dental cleaning at Smiles on Broadway Dental Care, we will provide a thorough oral cancer screening. At our Long Island, NY, practice, we proudly use the latest technology, including the VELscope® oral assessment system. This sensitive instrument can help us detect areas of cancer before they cause noticeable symptoms or spread to other parts of your body.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Like other forms of cancer, oral cancer develops when cells multiply and divide abnormally. Oral cancer can affect any of the soft tissues in your mouth, including your gums, tongue, soft palate, throat, and the floor of your mouth. Typically, small lesions, which may be white, red, or patchy, will be the first sign of oral cancer. Other symptoms can include:
- Redness and inflammation
- Gum sensitivity
- Difficulty swallowing
- Thickening of tissue
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath
- Tongue numbness
What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening
During your oral cancer screening, your dentist will first conduct a visual scan. However, in the early stages of cancer, oral lesions can be very hard to detect. We will also use the VELscope® device to perform a more thorough screening. The device emits a bright light that will cause your healthy soft tissues to glow green. Unhealthy areas will remain dark. This system allows our doctors to order further tests on abnormal tissue to discover cancer as early as possible, when it is easiest to treat.
If your dentist believes that you may have cancer, he or she will usually order a biopsy. After removing a very small amount of tissue, we will send this sample to a lab, where they will test for cancer. If you receive a positive diagnosis, we will refer you to a specialist for treatment. Throughout this time, we will collaborate with your doctor to ensure continuing, compassionate care.
Oral cancer screenings are essential. They can help your dentist identify the disease when it is still in the most treatable stages.
The Importance of Regular Oral Cancer Screenings
Oral cancer can be very aggressive, but this is usually because patients do not receive a timely diagnosis. By the time symptoms become the most noticeable, the disease has already progressed. For this reason, oral cancer screenings are essential. They can help your dentist identify the disease when it is still in the most treatable stages.
Anyone can develop oral cancer. Nevertheless, screenings become even more vital if you have a high risk for oral cancer. You are more likely to develop cancer if you:
- Use any tobacco products
- Are male
- Are over age 55
- Drink heavily
- Have had extensive exposure to sunlight
- Have been diagnosed with HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Have a family history of oral cancer
If any of these risk factors apply to you, or if you have been diagnosed with oral cancer in the past, you may want to schedule more than two screenings per year.
Receive Your Screening
To protect your long-term health and to schedule your screening, contact our office today. We can provide thorough exams to ensure your lasting oral and overall health.