San Saba Dental

Oral Cancer Exam

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According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, over 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually, leading to more than 7,000 patient deaths. The positive news is that oral cancer can be easily identified through an annual oral cancer examination, enabling effective treatment when detected in its early stages.

Oral cancer initiates as an asymptomatic process, during which typical cancer signs might not be readily noticeable. This emphasizes the critical importance of oral cancer examinations performed by dentists. These cancers can manifest in various histologic types, including teratoma, adenocarcinoma, and melanoma, with malignant squamous cell carcinoma being the most common form, usually originating in lip and mouth tissues.

Oral cancers often occur in different areas within the oral cavity and maxillofacial region, such as lips, mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat, gums, and face.

It’s crucial to note that approximately 75 percent of oral cancers are associated with modifiable behaviors like smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption. Dentists can provide resources and education on lifestyle changes and smoking cessation.

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During the painless oral cancer examination, dentists and dental hygienists meticulously scrutinize the oral and maxillofacial regions for pathologic changes. The exam includes investigating red patches, non-healing sores, leukoplakia (white or gray lesions), and abnormal lumps. Advanced tools like lasers are employed to identify hidden abnormalities below the surface, ensuring a thorough examination.

If abnormalities are detected, the dentist devises a diagnostic impression and treatment plan. If the initial treatment proves ineffective, a biopsy is performed to determine the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion. Oral cancer is confirmed when the basement membrane of the epithelium is breached. Malignant cancers can spread to other regions, posing additional risks. Treatment methods vary based on the diagnosis and may include excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

While bi-annual check-ups involve a comprehensive examination for changes and lesions, a dedicated oral cancer screening should be conducted at least once annually. If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist or dental hygienist.

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