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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

Posted by Lone Star Dental Care Nov 05, 2021

Approximately 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops anywhere on any tissue in your oral cavity. Oral cancer can form on your mouth, lips, gums, the roof of your mouth, on or under your tongue, and even in the back of your mouth and throat. 

Dr. Afshin Vahadi and Dr. Vafa Mirshams know that treatment is easier and more effective when oral cancer is caught in the early stages. That’s why we offer oral cancer screening as part of our comprehensive dental exams at our office at Lone Star Dental Care in Frisco, Texas.

Below, we share five reasons why oral cancer screenings are invaluable. 

1. Oral screenings lead to better treatment outcomes

This is perhaps the most important reason to receive an oral cancer screening ー or any cancer screening for that matter. Cancer treatments are more effective when cancer is caught in its early stages, and oral cancer screenings are the gold standard for detecting signs of oral cancer.

Early detection means that the cancer is most likely still localized. This means that the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of your body. Localized cancer is much easier to treat because you’re only focusing on one area of the body, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. On the other hand, cancer that has spread (or metastasized) requires more intensive treatments since multiple areas of your body are affected.

2. Oral cancer screenings provide peace of mind

Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer, but the reality is that any person of any race or gender can develop oral cancer. Although risk factors ー such as age, smoking status, and sun exposure ー can increase your risk of oral cancer, it’s possible to develop cancer even in the absence of these risk factors.  

Oral cancer screenings can give you a peace of mind knowing that even though oral cancer can affect anyone, you’re taking action to spot any potential red flags as soon as possible.

3. Oral cancer screenings are important even if you’ve already had cancerous lesions 

Individuals with a previous oral cancer diagnosis are more likely to develop cancerous lesions in the future when compared with people who have never been diagnosed with oral cancer. In one study, the recurrence rate of oral squamous cell carcinoma was 32.7%, with the median time for recurrence found to be 14 months. Screenings help detect the earliest signs of recurrent lesions so that you can receive additional treatment. 

4. Oral cancer screenings open up conversations about important lifestyle changes 

Oral cancer screening is designed to spot the signs of oral cancer, but these screenings provide another important benefit to your overall health: Oral cancer screenings open up the conversation about lifestyle habits that can adversely affect your health, namely smoking and excess drinking. 

Heavy alcohol use, chewing tobacco, and smoking cigarettes are three risk factors for oral cancer. Smokers are 10 times more likely to develop oral cancer, and smoking and drinking at the same time further increases your risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

You can reduce your risk of developing oral cancer by avoiding tobacco products and limiting alcohol consumption. Not only do you improve your oral health by avoiding these activities, but you also reduce your risk of developing other cancers such as esophageal or stomach cancer. Smoking also negatively impacts your vascular system, your kidneys, and your lungs. In other words, stopping smoking and heavy drinking for the sake of your oral health can benefit your overall health as well.

5. Oral cancer screenings can help you avoid painful symptoms

Not all oral cancer symptoms cause pain. In fact, some of the first signs of oral cancer could be a painless white patch or a wiggly tooth. Cancer screenings can help you identify cancer before it progresses into more painful symptoms. 

What to expect during an oral cancer screening

  • Oral cancer screenings are quick and painless. Dr. Vahadi and Dr. Mirshams look for red flags such as:
  • Discolored red or white patches on your tongue, gums, or inside of your cheeks
  • Loose adult teeth that are not caused by gum disease or traumatic injury
  • Bumps or lumps
  • Lesions 
  • Sores, especially ones that aren’t healing 

We also review any unusual symptoms you have such as pain and discomfort (unrelated to tooth decay or infection), ear pain, and difficulty swallowing. Thinking about any type of cancer can be nerve-racking, but remember that many of these symptoms have many potential causes. For example, gum disease can cause loose teeth and pain. If you spot any of these signs of oral cancer, don’t wait until your next exam. Please call us or use our online scheduling tool to schedule your oral cancer screening today. Remember, early detection saves lives!

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