In 2018, an estimated 51,540 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer, including cancers of the back of the tongue, throat, and tonsils. You might not realize it, but your Dallas dentist does more than just check for cavities, they also play a vital role when it comes to screening for oral cancer.
How is an Oral Cancer Screening Performed?
During your exam, your Dallas dentist will go over your medical history and any changes to your health. They will also examine your mouth, including your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, floor, and roof, to look for signs of chances. Additionally, they’ll examine the back of your throat and tonsils, and check your jaw and neck for abnormalities.
If they spot something concerning, they may ask you to return in a few weeks for a follow-up, in case the problems heal on their own, or refer you for further testing.
Am I at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Technically, everyone is at risk for oral cancer. However, certain factors do increase your level of risk.
For example, men are more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than women, as well as those who are 55 and up. Having a poor diet also increases your risk.
Additionally, tobacco users (regardless of whether you smoke or chew) are at a significantly higher risk of developing the disease. Pipe smokers are typically more likely to develop cancer of the lips than other groups, and smokeless tobacco users may end up with cancer of the cheeks, gums or lips. Cigarette smokers are more like to develop not just oral cancers, but cancers in other parts of the body as well, such as the lungs.
Heavy drinkers, those who average more than two drinks a day for men or more than one drink a day for women, are also at an increased risk. If you also use tobacco, then your risk is even higher.
People infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are also associated with increased risk of developing cancer of the head and neck, especially the back of the tongue and tonsils. And anyone who works out in the sun may be at increased risk for lip cancer.
Oral Cancer Prevention
Your best approach for preventing oral cancer is to eliminate any risk factors in your control. This includes working to maintain a healthy diet, giving up tobacco, and watching your alcohol intake.
If you have children aged 11 or 12, the CDC recommends they get the HPV vaccine.
By keeping up with your regular dental appointments, your Dallas dentist can complete timely oral cancer screenings, helping to catch problems early and ensuring you can receive treatment as quickly as possible.
Additionally, they can discuss any habits that may promote the development of oral cancer, including how to change them.
If you haven’t had a recent oral cancer screening in Dallas, contact your dentist today.