As a part of your regular examination, we will perform an oral cancer screening. This screening is painless and helps us catch oral cancer, an insidious disease that can strike even those who have few or none of the typical risk factors.
Many people don’t realize the powerful connection that exists between the health of your mouth and the health of your entire body. At Lomita-Torrance Dental, we understand that connection. We aren’t just treating your teeth or your gums; we are treating you, and screening for oral cancer is a vital part of that.
Who Can Get Oral Cancer?
Anybody can get oral cancer. While certain lifestyle choices (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) increase your risk, nobody is completely safe from this disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, 36,000 people will get a type of oral cancer this year alone, and nearly 7,000 people will die from it. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women. While oral cancer rates have been dropping in the last few years, a certain type of oral cancer linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV) has been on the rise.
The average age of a person diagnosed with oral cancer is 62, but it can occur at any age – even in children – with more than a quarter of all cases occurring in people under the age of 55.
How Do You Screen For Oral Cancer?
Your oral cancer screening is primarily a visual examination. Oral cancer develops on the soft tissues of your mouth, such as your lips, gums, tongue, and tonsils. We will check these thoroughly, using instruments to move your tongue from side to side and up and down so that we can get a clear visual of all your soft tissues.
We are looking for discolored patches on your tissue, which can indicate the start of cancer. These patches can be a range of colors, from white to brown to black. If we see anything that looks suspicious, we will recommend a biopsy to test the cells and look for anything cancerous or precancerous.
Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting Oral Cancer?
Some risk factors for oral cancer cannot be changed, for example your age or your gender. Others, however, are within your control:
- Tobacco use – This is the number one risk factor for oral cancer. The majority of people who develop oral cancer have chewed tobacco or smoked cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. If you currently smoke, we are happy to provide advice and support to help you quit since this habit can also lead to gum disease and other serious oral problems.
- Alcohol – Alcoholic beverages also significantly increase your risk for developing oral cancer. Studies have shown that combining alcohol consumption with tobacco use can increase your risk more than either risk factor alone.
- HPV infection – Commonly known as warts, these small growths can increase your chances of developing cancer. These are often transmitted through unprotected sexual contact.
- Poor nutrition – A diet low in fresh fruits and vegetables has been identified as a risk factor for developing oral cancer.
It is possible to develop oral cancer without having any identifiable risk factors. If you are concerned about your risk for oral cancer, please talk to us about it. Call us today to schedule your examination and oral cancer screening
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