Routine Oral Cancer Screenings Can Have Life-Saving Consequences
Oral cancer is a dangerous, yet somewhat preventable, type of cancer. It kills more people nationwide than cervical, breast or skin cancer. Only half of all patients diagnosed will survive more than five years. 80 to 90% of oral cancer patients are smokers or drink large amounts of alcohol. However, there are other factors that can increase your risk for this condition, including exposure to HPV. Most dentists have basic training in oral cancer detection and therefore should be your first line of defense against this disease. Practicing in Holland, PA, Dr. Gary Nack realizes the importance of early oral cancer detection. He completed a mini residency at Fox Chase Cancer Center during his senior year of dental school and has since taken many hours of continuing education on this topic. His team has been carefully trained to help locate suspicious areas and bring them to his attention. You will notice that we perform these screenings during your new patient experience and at each subsequent hygiene visit.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer can affect your lips, tongue, soft palate, throat, and any other soft tissues in your mouth. Like any type of cancer, the disease develops when cells divide and multiply abnormally. This process causes unusual growths to appear. With oral cancer, the growths can manifest themselves in various ways. Signs of the disease can include:
- Sores and lesions
- White, red, or crusted patches
- Bleeding gums
- Lumps or thickened areas, particularly on your gums
- Discomfort or numbness anywhere in your mouth
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are the two most common causes of oral cancer. At the same time, genetics and even chronic biting the inside of your lips and cheeks can play a role in its development. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, exposure to HPV (human papilloma virus) can also dramatically raise your risk for cancer, particularly in the back of your mouth and your throat. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, affecting up to 12,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 each day. There are nearly 200 different strains of HPV. However, only 9 strains are known to cause cancer, and only one is strongly linked to oral cancer. The symptoms of HPV may be minor or almost unnoticeable. Often, they can lie dormant for many years after you contract the disease. Therefore, you may not be aware that you are suffering from the virus or know of your oral health risks.
Oral Cancer Screenings at Our Practice
Dr. Nack and his staff perform cancer screenings at every exam. If your practitioner sees potential signs of oral cancer, the dentist will order a biopsy. When the indications are less pronounced, he will often use our OralCDx® brush biopsy system. If your symptoms are more severe, he will usually perform a traditional surgical biopsy. In either case, the process will involve very little discomfort. A qualified lab will then test the sample for cancer.
The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings
Sadly, oral cancer is often fatal because the signs are subtle in its initial stages. Left undiagnosed, oral cancer can quickly spread to other parts of your body, particularly the lymph nodes. Once there, it is much more difficult to treat. On the other hand, when a doctor can diagnose it early on, you will typically have a more favorable prognosis. The advantages of routine examinations and cancer screenings are pretty obvious. Have these done at least once, and in high risk patients, twice a year to ensure your health.
Contact Us Today
With our technology, a cancer screening will take just minutes, but it could be the most important minutes you have ever spent. Contact Dr. Nack’s office to schedule a routine screening that could potentially save your life.