An oral cancer screening is a physical and visual exam of the oral cavity and its connected tissues. It is conducted to reassure the patient that no apparent problems exist or to trigger early treatment procedures if any are detected. A doctor or dentist may recommend the screening as a response to a patient’s lifestyle or even by a request from the patient as a precautionary measure.
The National Cancer Institute has suggested that oral cancer screenings should be conducted before any symptoms begin to display themselves.
The face, inside of the nose, neck, lips and the oral cavity all receive attention during a visual screening for oral cancer. The patient is advised to remove all removable dental appliances and expose every area during the screening.
The dentist conducting the screening will be looking for swellings, bumps, ulcerations, patches of color, asymmetries and other abnormalities during the examination with the patient either sitting down or lying. The dentist will use light along with a mirror to see clearly inside the nose and the mouth. A tongue depressor will be used to hold the tongue down and look at the back of the mouth. To expose areas in the throat the patient may be asked to say ‘aah.’ Other tools may also help the dentist to evaluate the inner cheeks, gums, tonsils, roof of the mouth, throat, and under the tongue.
During the visual exam, the dentist will touch the head and cheeks around the jaw, below the chin, and around the oral cavities to detect any unusual nodules. Signs of a potential problem will be detected if immobility in mobile tissue is normal and the patient may be questioned about whether any discomfort is caused by physical contact. The symptoms of oral cancer can be painful but even a painless swelling can be an indication of problems elsewhere. While the throat is being examined the patient may be asked to swallow.
When completing an oral cancer screening the dentist may use specialized tools for the examination apart from the light, mirror, tongue depressor and other regular medical equipment. The oral CDX which is a brush that removes cells for testing painlessly is highlighted by the Mouth Cancer Foundation for the testing. A VELscope that identifies suspicious oral tissues using a blue light that is visible and a moderately acidic mouth rinse released by an Orascoptic DK may also be used to help with the visual inspection of these issues. The dentist will receive assistance from other screening instruments that also use specialized dyes.
The dentist may decide to use a simple fiberoptic camera known as the nasopharyngolaryngoscope for the testing. The dentist will apply some medication and an anesthetic before feeding this instrument into the nose and back into the throat to view the larynx and pharynx.
When you go for an oral cancer screening near you you must understand it is a precautionary measure and not a diagnostic one. You will be asked to return at regular intervals for examinations even if the dentist finds nothing abnormal during the exam. This will particularly be the case if you are using tobacco, consuming alcohol or practicing other behavior that can increase the risk of oral cancer.
At times the dentist may recommend you to undergo further tests to determine the causes of a particular symptom. Bear in mind that any results which require additional investigation do not necessarily mean you have cancer. Even if cancer is ultimately detected the early diagnosis reduces the health problems related to the treatment further down the road. It is a recommendation also made by the American Dental Association.
An oral cancer screening in Denton, TX, is not merely a medical exam. It is an opportunity for you to discuss with the dentist about any fears or concerns in your mind and ask for advice for reducing the risks. If you are nervous about the screening you can write down a list of questions for the dentist before you embark on the testing. Just be assured that a simple examination can put your mind at ease.