Oral cancer refers to the cancers of the cheeks, lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and phalanx (throat). This type of cancer can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early.
Although it may be commonly believed that oral cancer is only present in individuals who smoke, drink, or chew tobacco, oral cancer can develop in any individual. Risk factors for the development of oral cancer, in addition to using tobacco (via smoking or through smokeless means) and heavy consumption of alcohol, include those with a family history of cancer, those who have had excessive sun exposure (especially at a young age), and those carrying the human papillomavirus (HPV).
An oral cancer screening is an examination done by your dentist to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. The exam is normally performed during a routine dental visit.
Your dentist at Harmony dental at our Pearland or Pasadena location will first look inside of your mouth to check for white or red patches or mouth sores. Then, using gloved hands, your dentist will feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities. If you wear either partial or complete dentures that are removable, you’ll need to remove them so that the tissues underneath can also be checked.
An additional test for oral cancer screening involves rinsing your mouth with a special liquid, then having a special light shone into your mouth to look for abnormalities. Problem areas show up much darker than healthy ones. If any concerns arise, your dentist may recommend a follow-up visit or a biopsy procedure to determine whether the cells in the suspected area is cancerous.