Oral Cancer Screenings

Woman talking to dentist during dental examOral cancer is a quiet, sneaky disease that will sadly claim the lives of 10,000 people this year. What makes this disease so scary is not so much its mortality rate, which is already terrifying on its own, but how hard it is to detect without our help. In many cases, oral cancer can continue to grow unobserved and unchecked for a very long time. By the time it is finally spotted, it can be too late. When you come to see us here at State Street Dental, you are not only helping to ensure the health and beauty of your teeth; you are also taking the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy and free from oral cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Please be aware that oral cancer can remain asymptomatic for a very long time. Do not count on using these symptoms of it as a method to intercept it before it advances. Oral cancer is normally detected during a dental exam, and once it starts to show signs, it may have already spread.

Signs of oral cancer can include a sore or lesion in the mouth that refuses to heal. A mass can develop in the mouth. Pain or difficulty swallowing can also be a sign of oral cancer. White or red patches in the mouth (including on the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the cheeks) can also indicate oral cancer is present. Changes in the way the teeth fit can also be a sign of oral cancer. Numbness or thickening of the tongue may be a sign of oral cancer, too.

Who is at Greater Risk?

Certain demographics are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Men are more than twice as likely than women to have oral cancer. People who use tobacco or alcohol products have a significantly higher risk of oral cancer. People over the age of 55 are at an elevated risk, too. More and younger people are starting to develop oral cancer, however. This is because exposure to HPV can cause oral cancer, and this younger demographic is starting to get oral cancer at a higher rate than ever before.

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

During an oral cancer screening, we will thoroughly examine your entire mouth. We will visually examine your mouth, checking underneath your tongue, the back of your throat, and your tonsils. We will also physically examine your mouth and throat, as well. We will press gently on your neck and throat (“palpitate”) it to determine if any mass has formed.

If anything of concern is found, we may advise that we take a sample of the suspicious area. This will be sent to our lab for a biopsy. We may have you return within a week or two to see if the suspicious area has changed at all. If it is determined that cancer is found, we will work with you to come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Early detection is vital for a better prognosis. The five-year survival rate for later-stage oral cancer is appallingly low, at less than 60 percent. However, if caught early, it greatly improves. We advise all of our patients come in every six months for a checkup and a cleaning and an oral cancer screening. If you are interested in learning more about oral cancer, or you are interested in scheduling an appointment with us here at State Street Dental, please call us today at (971) 332-3020!

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(971) 332-3020


1800 State St.
Salem, OR 97301-4343

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