Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

January 1, 2021
One of the reasons doctors and dentists insist on routine checkups is that they present the perfect opportunity to detect problems in their early stages. Oral cancer screening is one of the tests your dentists will perform on you during a checkup. This examination aims at detecting early cancer signs or precancerous conditions in the mouth. This examination is performed to identify mouth cancer in its early stages. This way, you will have a greater fighting chance. Sometimes, simply checking your mouth may not be enough to identify abnormal cells in the mouth. This calls for additional tests. Although people need to undergo oral cancer screening, there is no proof that it could prevent deaths from this condition.

Who is at Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?

Although anyone can develop oral cancer, the following factors heighten your susceptibility:
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco use of any kind, whether smoking or sniffing, increases your risk of developing neck, head, and lip cancer.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption increases your chances of suffering from neck and head cancer
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun: It increases your risk of developing lip cancer.
  • Human Papillomavirus
  • Age: people aged 45 years and above are at an increased risk of contracting oral cancer
  • Gender: men are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer compared to women
Other risk factors include marijuana use, weakened immune system, poor oral hygiene, and better skin.

What to Expect

When you go in for oral cancer screening at the office of Olivia Rodrigues DDS, the dentist may use one or several of these tests to diagnose you:
  • Physical Examination: Most oral cancer patients were first diagnosed during routine examinations. If you show any oral cancer signs, your doctor will assess your medical history and ask about your symptoms and risk actors. They may then proceed to check for lumps on the cheeks, gums, neck, and lips, not forgetting the neck lymph nodes and larynx.
  • Endoscopy: This examination allows your doctor to have a peek inside your mouth and throat. During this test, the doctor inserts an endoscope via the nose to look at the neck and head areas. There are different types of endoscopies, depending on the part of your body under examination. An endoscopy of the larynx is called laryngoscopy, while that of the pharynx is referred to as a pharyngoscopy. Because these examinations could cause you discomfort, an anesthetic spray is used to numb the areas to be examined. If the doctor sees any suspicious areas, they might want to perform a biopsy.
  • Biopsy: Although several tests could suggest the presence of cancer, only a biopsy determines whether you have cancer. During this test, the doctor removes small tissue amounts from the suspected areas and observes them under a microscope.
  • Oral Brush Biopsy:This is a newer and more straightforward technique that most dentists are adopting in detecting oral cancer. During an oral brush biopsy, your dentist uses a brush to collect cell samples from an area of abnormal cells. They then send the specimen to a laboratory where analysis is done. If the results are positive, a traditional biopsy will be necessary to confirm them.
  • HPV Testing:This test could be done on the tissue removed during the biopsy. As earlier mentioned, one of the risk factors of oral cancer is the HPV virus. Knowing if one has HPV helps the doctor know what stage of cancer they are dealing with. This way, they can come up with a treatment plan.
  • Xray:This technique creates images of your body’s internal structure for better analysis by the doctor. If your doctor suspects you may have oral cancer, they may recommend X-rays of your neck or mouth to confirm their suspicions.
  • CT Scan: A Computed Tomography scan takes images of your inner body parts using X-rays placed at different angles. The resulting images are converted into a more detailed 3D image that clearly shows abnormalities in the affected areas. Because a CT scan indicates the size of the tumor, your doctor will be able to access its spread and decide whether to remove it surgically.
  • MRI:instead of X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses magnetic fields to create detailed images of your body. This is the preferred method when your doctor needs a better look at the soft tissue, e.g., the tonsils at the tongue base. An MRI also gives the tumor’s size. To enhance the image’s appearance, your doctor may administer a dye referred to as a contrast medium before beginning the scan.