It’s great that you are considering taking care of your oral health by getting an oral cancer screening! Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, can affect any part of the mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, inside of the cheeks, roof of the mouth (palate), and floor of the mouth. It can also affect the throat and the salivary glands. Oral cancer can be serious if not caught early, so getting screened regularly can help detect any potential problems early on.
A few different types of oral cancer screenings can be performed. The most common type is a visual and physical examination of the mouth, tongue, and throat. During this examination, the healthcare provider will look for any abnormalities or changes in the mouth, such as red or white patches on the gums or tongue, lumps or bumps, or any other unusual features. They may also feel the area around the neck to check for any lymph nodes that may be swollen. These symptoms may be signs of oral cancer, but other conditions can also cause them. Therefore, it is important to have them evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
In addition to a visual and physical examination, some healthcare providers may use other methods to screen for oral cancer. These may include using a special light or dye to help identify abnormalities that are not visible to the naked eye. This is known as a fluorescence visualization (FV) exam. During an FV exam, a special light is used to illuminate the inside of the mouth. Any abnormal cells will appear differently under the light, making them easier to see.
Another method that may be used to screen for oral cancer is a brush biopsy. During a brush biopsy, a small brush is used to take a sample of cells from the mouth. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing. This can help determine if the abnormal cells are cancerous or noncancerous.
It is recommended that adults get an oral cancer screening at least once every three years. If you have a higher risk of developing oral cancer due to factors such as tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption, you may need to be screened more frequently.
If oral cancer is detected early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Treatment options for oral cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The specific treatment recommended will depend on the stage and location of cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient.
I hope this information is helpful! If you have any further questions or concerns about oral cancer screenings, I recommend speaking with a healthcare provider for more details. They can discuss your specific risk factors and recommend a screening schedule that is appropriate for you. Taking care of your oral health is essential, and getting an oral cancer screening is important.