Oral Cancer Screenings Can Protect You for Life
You may already recognize that regular dental visits are important. However, if you have neglected your exams, there is yet another reason to schedule your routine care. Frequent dental visits are the most effective way to detect the early signs of oral cancer. At each of your appointments, Jacksonville Dentist Dr. Lysandro Tapnio will conduct oral cancer screenings. He will check your gums, cheeks, and soft palate, looking for sores, white or red patches, and other cancer symptoms. Dr. Tapnio will order a biopsy if he sees anything unusual, and he can refer you to a specialist for any needed treatment. Early diagnosis and care is the best way to beat oral cancer, but the symptoms often go overlooked. Do not let this serious disease catch you unaware. Contact our office today to schedule your oral cancer screening.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Like all forms of cancer, oral cancer occurs due to genetic mutations in your cells. These irregularities will result in rapid, unnatural cell division. Oral cancer can strike any area of soft tissue, including your lips, tongue, gums, upper palate, floor of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks. Because oral cancer manifests itself differently for each patient, symptoms can vary. However, some of the most common signs of this disease include:
- Chronic, painful sores in your mouth
- White or red patches (or a mixture of the two) on your soft tissues
- Gum sensitivity and/or tongue pain
- Bleeding gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in the fit of your denture or removable restoration
- Chronic sore throat
- Feeling like there is a lump in your throat
If you experience these or any other changes in your soft tissues, you should schedule a cancer screening immediately.
Who Is at Risk for Oral Cancer?
If you are a man over age 55, you are more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer. However, age and gender are not the only considerations. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking and tobacco use: Tobacco products contain harmful chemicals that cause genetic mutations. The longer you have smoked or the more often you do so, the greater your risk for oral cancer.
- Alcohol abuse: Excess alcohol consumption can raise the likelihood that you will develop oral cancer. The chances are even greater if you are a smoker as well.
- Continued exposure to UV light: If you spend a significant amount of time outside, you have a higher risk of lip cancer.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV): In recent years, a growing number of oral cancer cases have been linked to HPV. This condition is most likely to cause cancer in the oropharynx, or middle throat.
The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings
Even if the risk factors listed above do not apply to you, it is still important to receive routine oral cancer screenings. Oral cancer can spread rapidly, affecting other areas, such as your lymph nodes. From there, the disease can travel throughout your body. On the other hand, when cancer is caught early, your medical team can often halt the disease before it spreads. Thus, patients who receive an early diagnosis usually have a good outlook. Unfortunately, the symptoms of oral cancer can mimic those of other conditions, such as gum disease. Therefore, it is important to receive screenings on a regular basis, even if you do not manifest the symptoms of cancer.
What to Expect at Oral Cancer Screenings
Typically, your cancer screening will take place at your biannual exam and cleaning. Dr. Tapnio will examine your soft tissues, looking for the visible signs of cancer. He may also gently probe your gums and cheeks. After scanning your mouth, he will provide tips for performing self-screenings at home. The entire test will typically take five minutes or less, yet it could save your life.
If Dr. Tapnio detects an unusual sore or patch, he will order a biopsy. He will take a tissue sample, sending it to a qualified lab for testing. Our lab has quick turnaround, so you will not have to wait long for your diagnosis. In most cases, oral lesions are non-cancerous. Dr. Tapnio may be able to treat them with medications, topical creams, or additional procedures.
Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening Today
Make your oral-systemic health a priority. Contact us to book a quick, convenient oral cancer screening, or better yet a dental cleaning and checkup that includes oral cancer screening.