The main drawback in the diagnosis of oral cancer is that it depends on patients visiting a dentist for examination. A thorough exam only takes a few minutes though and the cancer can be detected at an early and curable stage!
Oral cancer screening is done with the aim of detecting cancer before a person displays symptoms. For this reason, in the interest of our patients, we routinely do oral cancer screening with visits to our practice. Early diagnosis is optimal with oral cancer because the stage of the disease is directly related to the chances of one’s survival. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early it may be easier to treat and could prevent cancer fatalities. At the stage when symptoms are already being experienced, cancer may have already started spreading.
Statistics show that Squamous cell carcinoma of the pharynx and oral cavity are the cause of over 43,250 cases of oral cancer per year in the United States, resulting in around 8,000 deaths per year. Seventy-five percent of all head and neck cancers begin in the oral cavity, while The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and Ends Results (SEER) program reports that 30% of oral cancers start in the tongue, 17% in the lip, and 14% in the floor of the mouth.
A typical oral screening with Dr. Stark will work like this:
- If you have dentures (plates) or partials, you will be asked to remove them.
- Dr. Stark will then inspect your face, neck, lips and mouth to look for any signs of cancer.
- Using both hands, she will examine the area under your jaw and the side of your neck, checking for lumps that may suggest cancer.
- She will then check and feel the insides of your lips and cheeks to check for possible signs of cancer, such as discolored (red and/or white patches).
- Next, Dr. Stark will ask you to stick out your tongue so it can be checked for swelling or abnormal color or texture.
- Using gauze, she will then gently pull your tongue to one side, then the other, to check the base of your tongue. The bottom of your tongue will also be checked.
- She will look at the roof and floor of your mouth, as well as the back of your throat.
- Finally, Dr. Stark will put one finger on the floor of your mouth and, with the other hand under your chin, gently press down to check for lumps or sensitivity.