How Do We Check for Signs of Oral Cancer?
Every time you are in our office for an exam, both the dentist and dental hygienist perform an oral cancer screening. Our goal is to understand you medical history, dental history, and any other risk factors you may have. Using this information we can help identify, treat, or refer you to the right person for any possible treatment.
To identify any potential areas of concern, we look for colors or lesions that are out of the ordinary. They could be red, white, blue, black and just about everything in between. In most cases the key is to identify these areas, take pictures when necessary, and follow their progress. If these areas continue to change size, shape and color, we will likely recommend a specialist examine and biopsy the area. In more extreme situations where the appearance is more aggressive, we will immediately refer you to a specialist for a biopsy of the area.
There is technology now available that uses a light or a rinse to look for potential cancerous areas. We currently do not use these tools because we have found they present a large number of ‘false-positive’ findings. This means it shows an overabundance of areas that may be pre-cancerous or cancerous and can lead to over treatment. Until this technology improves, we will continue to conduct our oral cancer screenings without the lights or rinses.
So what should you look for at home and when do you need to come see us? When you notice something new and it does not go away in 10-14 days, I believe that is a good indication to have the area more closely examined. If you have any history of oral cancer, smoking, or smokeless tobacco it is even more important to see us whenever you are in doubt.
Like many other types of cancer, oral cancer can go undetected for a long time if you do not maintain regular visits with your doctor or dentist. Even if you do your best to check at home for any irregularities, you should always consult with your dentist whenever in doubt.