Every time you go to your dentist, they take pains to help ensure you’re healthy. One quiet service they provide is scanning their patient’s oral cavities for cancer. Oral cancer occurs in many forms and is treatable if caught early. For this reason, checking for this disease is an important part of every dental visit.
Oral Cancer Indicators That Your Dentist Is Watching For
Several indicators are on your dentist’s watchlist as they perform a standard dental exam. Oral cancer can appear in your throat, cheeks, tongue, and gums. Any of the membranes within your mouth can be a place where this condition can form. Signs of discoloration are one of the earliest indicators your dentist is on the watch for. However, lesions that aren’t healing properly, polyps, and other sores can also indicate something is amiss. When oral cancer is suspected, your dentist may request one of the following tests:
- Oral Brush Biopsy – Your dentist will use a special tool to extract a tissue sample within the suspected area. This sample will be packaged and shipped to a lab for further analysis.
- Endoscopy – An endoscopy may be performed when oral cancer is suspected in an area that’s difficult to see with the naked eye. This procedure uses a tiny camera in a small flexible tube to reach the target area and take images. Special tools can be slid through the tube to take a biopsy if necessary.
- Barium Swallowing Tests – A barium swallowing test may be performed if cancer is suspected in the throat. This test involves the patient swallowing barium-infused liquid. This liquid is visible on an x-ray and can show the presence of lumps or tumors within the throat.
- HPV Testing – There is a range of oral cancers that are the direct result of the human papillomavirus. A negative test can immediately rule out a range of oral cancers that only appear when it’s present.
In addition to the above tests, your dentist may order CAT scans, MRIs, or additional x-rays to reach a conclusive diagnosis. The information these tests provide can help direct your medical providers toward effective treatment options. These tests will reveal the aggressiveness of cancer, the degree to which it has progressed, and how far it may have spread.
Speak To Your Oral Care Provider About Cancer Concerns
If you find yourself worrying about the presence of oral cancer, reach out to your dentist or primary care provider. These cancers are those that can be effectively treated in their earliest stages. As a result, you must remain vigilant about their presence. Your dentist or primary care physician will address any concerns you have, and tests will be done to determine if there’s any need to worry. If oral cancer is detected, they’ll coordinate in developing a treatment plan with you that will give you the greatest chance of becoming a cancer survivor.