Oral Cancer Screening in West Seneca, NY
Experienced West Seneca Dentists Providing Comprehensive Oral Cancer Screenings
“Cancer” is a word that no one wants to hear, but it is an ailment that can affect anyone.
Oral cancer can occur in most areas of the mouth, such as the teeth, the gums, the tongue, the lips, the cheeks, and the maxillary arch (the roof of the mouth). Though any individual can develop this type of cancer, it has a higher incidence in individuals who engage in regular practices that are damaging to oral health. Chewing tobacco, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, inadequate nutrition and malnourishment, and the use of improperly fitting dentures (which can cause persistent irritation) can all spur the development of oncogenes, or cancer cells. Infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV) can also contribute to various cancers, including oral cancer. The early signs of oral cancer are often difficult to detect by the average person, but a closer inspection from a dentist can determine whether oral cancer has begun to take root.
Perhaps the most visible sign of oral cancer is the appearance of red and/or white patches. These patches may resemble whiteheads surrounded by inflamed skin, or they may appear as irregularly shaped regions with an average diameter of one or more inches. Erythroplakia (red patches), leukoplakia (white patches), and erythroleukoplakia (patches of both colors) may have other causes, but the incidence of them developing into oral cancer is particularly high. Other common telltale symptoms include the appearance of ulcers or sores that do not heal after two weeks, unusual swelling, numbness in the tongue, inexplicable and sudden looseness of the teeth, and difficulty swallowing. If you have any of these symptoms, it is critical that you consult your dentist immediately.
Oral cancer screenings from your dentist are rather quick to perform, as dentists are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of the earliest stages of disease. The entire process should last no more than five minutes, and your dentist will rely only on simple equipment such as gauze, gloves, and mirrors to complete the exam. The first step involves your dentist asking you about your medical history as well as any symptoms that you may have begun to experience. A family history of certain cancers or lifestyle choices can suggest to your dentist that you are at a naturally higher risk of developing this disease. Your dentist will then peer into your mouth and esophagus, using tools to inspect the gum line, the rear portions of your lips, the insides of your cheeks, the underside of your tongue, the roof of your mouth, and your tonsils. Your dentist may also survey the area around the root of your tongue and manually examine your neck and jaw for nodules or other worrisome indications of cancer.
Merely because your dentist finds something that appears abnormal, it does not necessarily follow that you have developed oral cancer. Further diagnostic examinations will have to be performed by specialists in order to rule cancer in or out. Sometimes a potentially cancerous nodule or ulcer may in fact be a benign lesion. However, it is only through examination by a specialist in oncology that the presence of oral cancer can be definitively proven.