Early Detection Means More Effective Treatment
Oral cancer is one of the highest occurring cancers worldwide. The good news is that early detection can greatly increase the five-year survivability rate.
To protect our patients’ oral and overall health, our Belvidere dental team makes oral cancer screenings part of every routine exam. Learn more about oral cancer, including the signs, the stages, and how we can help detect possibly cancerous cells so you can get the treatment you need without delay.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer refer to cancers of the mouth and throat. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer will likely affect over 54,540 Americans in 2023. Mortality rates for oral cancer around the world are estimated to be around 2 percent.
Signs of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer may be easy to overlook in the early stages, making it especially problematic. That’s why our Belvidere dentists make oral cancer screenings part of every routine exam. However, our patients need to know the signs so that they can schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Signs of possibly cancerous tissues include:
- Persistent sore throat
- Feeling that something is caught at the back of your throat
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Bleeding sores on the face, neck, or mouth that don’t heal within two weeks
- Unexplained loss of feeling, pain, or numbness in the face, neck, or mouth
- Ear pain
- Lumps, bumps, or rough spots on the gums, lips, or other parts of the mouth
- Red, white, or speckled red and white patches in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
- Changes in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
We encourage you to contact our Belvidere dental office at (815) 544-5144 if you’re displaying any of the above symptoms. We’ll help you understand your situation and get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.
What Is Oral Cancer Screening?
Oral cancer screenings refer to an exam our Belvidere dentists use to identify abnormal and possibly cancerous tissues. Once these tissues are identified, we send them to a specialist who will provide an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. If the tests come back positive, we’ll help your specialist ensure you begin treatment without delay. There are various tools and techniques commonly used for oral cancer screenings. Keep reading to learn more.
The Oral Cancer Screening Process
X-rays are a tried and true method for identifying potentially malignant growths inside the mouth and jaw. The rays will penetrate the skin, allowing our dentists to discern any abnormalities that may not be seen or felt.
During a visual/tactile exam, your Belvidere dentists will look at the inside and outside of your mouth and throat. They’ll also feel your throat, mouth, and face for any bumps or lesions that may not be apparent to the naked eye.
A specially made dye can help reveal the presence of potentially cancerous cells under a particular light. The cells are revealed after they’ve been painted with the dye, usually a substance like Toluidine-Blue, and exposed to. After exposure to the light, abnormal cells painted in this dye tend to glow a different color than the normal, healthy tissues.
A biopsy involves taking a tiny portion of tissue directly from the affected area. The tissue is sent to a specialist, who will analyze it for the presence of cancer cells. The type of biopsy can vary from a simple scraping that requires no anesthetic, to an incision. We’ll use anesthetic as needed to ensure your comfort.
Frequently Asked Questions
The cost of your oral cancer screening can vary based on many factors. As a significant part of preventive dental care, your insurance is likely to cover at least some of the costs. Be sure to contact your provider beforehand to confirm what they can and can’t cover beforehand.
Oral cancer screenings aren’t painful. The majority of oral cancer screening techniques are minimally invasive. For more invasive tests, your dentist should use anesthetic as needed so you won’t feel any discomfort.
Oral cancer screenings involve highly accurate tools and techniques for identifying abnormal and potentially cancerous tissues. Once these tissues have been identified, your dentist will send them to a specialist such as a pathologist or an oncologist. They’ll analyze the cells and provide an accurate diagnosis.
It’s usually recommended that adults get screened for oral cancer at least once a year. To increase the likelihood of early detection, we make oral cancer screenings part of every routine exam. That means that our dentists should screen you for oral cancer at least once every six months, or twice a year.