Planning a visit to your dentist in Medford? It’s always a good idea to make an oral cancer screening part of the appointment. Not only will this help you to enjoy greater peace of mind, it’s essential for catching the illness in its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.
A Risk You Should Never Ignore
Doctors diagnose more than 400,000 new cases of oral cancer in the US every year. Left undetected, it may spread to other parts of the body, making the disease very difficult to treat. Even if it stays confined to the mouth or throat, treating the disorder often requires extensive radiation or chemotherapy.
The good news is that oral cancer usually yields to early detection. Dentists are specially trained in spotting the warning signs of this disease. Here’s what you can expect during an oral cancer examination:
- Your dentist will ask you about your medical history, lifestyle factors, and family background. The purpose of these questions is to assess your risk for oral cancer.
- He or she will check your mouth, tongue, palate, lips, and throat for signs of the disease. Typical warning signs include red or white splotches, unexplained bumps or ridges, and a sore that fails to heal.
- Your dentist may also use a special device to look inside your mouth. It emits a blue light that makes cancer cells clearly visible. Sometimes a special liquid solution is used for the same purpose.
If the dentist sees no sign of oral cancer, then the exam is complete. If he or she notices cause for concern, then the next step is to remove a small sample of skin cells for laboratory analysis. This is known as a biopsy.
What If Oral Cancer Is Diagnosed?
Cancer therapy is more advanced today than at any time in history. Option for treating the disease include:
- Surgery: this is often the only form of treatment necessary, particularly if the cancer is slow-growing or in its early stages.
- Targeted drug therapy: this method uses medications to attack the cancer on the molecular level. The idea is to obtain maximum results with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life.
- Radiation: this approach uses minute amounts of targeted radiation to destroy the cancer while sparing the surrounding cells.
- Immunotherapy: you may have seen reports of this type of cancer treatment in the media. It teaches the patient’s immune system to recognize and attack the disease. While immunotherapy is still in its preliminary stages, it shows remarkable promise for helping patients.
The Bottom Line
We live in a time that offers many exciting options for treating oral cancer. Getting the most benefit from these therapies comes down to regular screenings. Make an appointment with your dentist or other healthcare provider for an oral cancer exam. You’ll soon enjoy better health and more peace of mind.
About the Author
Dr. Anthony Giamberardino earned his BA in biology from Harvard before going on to complete his DMD degree at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He has been practicing dentistry for 34 years. Over that time he has performed thousands of oral cancer screenings. You can reach his office online or by calling (781) 396-3800.