Oral cancer accounts for 1% of overall cancers. While more prevalent in smokers, oral cancer can happen to anyone and at any age. The key to success is catching oral cancer in its earlier stages before it spreads. Obviously, dentists are in great position to detect these types of cancer since they spend so much time looking in your mouth. Our oral cancer screening protocol consists of both a manual exam and a visual one.
Your manual oral cancer screening is performed by palpating your head and neck region. Oral cancer travels through lymph nodes from your head and neck to the rest of the body, so it is important to feel for any firm or swollen lymph nodes in this region. Your dentist will examine your head and neck region to check for firm nodules, including the occipital, postauricular, preauricular, anterior cervical, posterior cervical, supraclavicular, submandibular and the submental lymph nodes. Any non-tender, fixed nodes are noted and followed up within a few weeks. Should the node continue to persist, appropriate referral is made for further evaluation.
Your visual oral cancer screening starts off by examining the head and neck region for any suspicious lesions. Next, we look inside the mouth, carefully examining your cheeks, tongue, palate and gum area. Suspicious lesions typically appear as red or white lesions with raised borders and possibly ulceration. In addition to relying on our vision, we also make use of Bio/Screen oral cancer light. Bio/Screen is an oral cancer detection tool which emits a blue light. The light can detect changes in tissues invisible to the naked eye. Suspicious lesions could be cancer or precancerous lesions and will be monitored accordingly.