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Oral Cancer Screening, and Prevention During Oral Health Month

Posted in Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer Screening, and Prevention

In 2021 7,400 Canadians were diagnosed with head and neck cancer (oral cancer is classed as head and neck cancer). Approximately 5,400 men and 2,000 women. Sadly, 2,100 died from it. Most oral cancers when caught early have a much better success rate, or chance of being cured. Therefore, oral cancer screening is important and should be done regularly by a qualified dentist or medical doctor. See The Canadian Cancer Society.

Dr. Kiran Kapadia of Clearview Dental is very aware of the importance of screening and checks for oral cancer during every checkup. If cancer is suspected or identified during a checkup, Dr. Kapadia may refer you to a medical specialist and/or order more tests.

Some medical organisations claim that cancer screening among healthy people in low-risk categories is not necessary. However precancerous lesions that can lead to cancer are easiest to remove when small, so why take any risks?

April is Oral Health month in Ontario and Clearview Dental wants you to know that they are diligent in watching for early signs of oral cancer. Prevention is always the best medicine; therefore, you may be wondering, are there lifestyle changes I could make to reduce my chances of head and neck cancer? In order of importance here are some recommendations. Avoid tobacco use of any kind, it is the #1 cause of oral cancer. Do not over drink. Heavy alcohol use has been proven to increase your chances of oral cancer. Excessive exposure to the sun over time will also increase your chances of skin and lip cancer.

The number of people diagnosed with mouth and throat cancers has been rising over the last decade. However, it isn’t clear why. Previous oral cancer diagnoses also increases your odds of getting oral cancer again. If you are worried about getting oral cancer talk to Dr. Kapadia about ways you can reduce your risk and which screening tests might be appropriate for you.

Self Screening for Oral Cancer

If you are unable to visit your dentist regularly or if your worried you may develop oral cancer in between dental checkups here are some tips on self screening for oral cancer. (These suggestions or tips do not replace medical advice. See disclaimer at bottom of this post).

Where to Look?

Although oral cancer is common in soft tissue and specific to certain areas of your mouth, it’s important to inspect all areas of the mouth. Set yourself up with a bright light source in front of your mirror.  Start with your lips and check their whole surface inside and out. Next, stick out your tongue and look closely at the top and sides, followed by a close look at the bottom and underside or floor of your mouth. Third, gently manipulate and stretch your cheeks allowing light to reveal their inner surface, take your time to look at all of it, bit by bit. Finally audit your hard and soft pallet. The soft pallet may be the most difficult to see as it makes up the last part of the mouth before your throat.

What to Look For?

What does oral cancer look like? The expression “you’ll know it when you see it” may apply because most oral cancers look out of place or very abnormal, or irregular. Usually, their shape is spotty or blotchy apposed to symmetrical or coordinated. The color of oral cancer can differ. Some are white and bloody others are like mixed colors of freckled browns and black. Like their shape, many oral cancers have an uneven texture as well. Blisters and sores often form spheres or are circular in shape, cancers are rarely like this, it will look more chaotic if they’re cancer cells.

Although cancer cells form gradually over time (depending on how aggressive it is), most people will feel it before they see it. The mouth is full of nerves and can be very sensitive. How do you feel for cancer?

Feeling for Oral Cancer

Feeling around the inside of your mouth is a good job for your amazing tongue. Every day your tongue inspects your mouth subconsciously. Using muscle memory from the nervous system you probably already know of every tiny bump and texture that exists inside your mouth. Don’t second guess the common things you know already. Salivary glands under the tongue, the slight difference in texture from a filling, or the sensitive area on your cheek where you accidently bit down on, all normal.

Oral cancers feel different and foreign, they are rough, rubbery, and new. Some are sensitive and painful where others have little sensitivity or feeling. Sometimes when we bite down on our cheek or tongue a small pearl or marble will form while it heals. Some cancer patients will describe it like that only without the pearl or marble. Just a sensitive area with fibrous irregular skin.

* This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.