The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010, 10:42 am

Every hour of every day an American dies from oral cancer according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.  Oral cancer affects the mouth, lips or throat and is often highly curable if caught in the early stages.  Men are more likely than women to get oral cancer – and men over 50 are particularly at risk.

As part of your comprehensive oral examination I perform an oral cancer screening.  During that screening I am closely examining the tissues of your mouth looking for any discolorations or lesions.  I will also feel for any lumps or tissue changes in your oral cavity, head, neck and face.   In the unlikely event that a suspicious spot is discovered it can be easily biopsied using the Oral CDX brush biopsy or other biopsy procedure.

Actor Michael Douglas had good advice when he said that he had some responsibility for his throat cancer – he stated that the combination of drinking and smoking were responsible for his illness.  This may be true – smoking is the number one risk factor for oral cancers along with the use of smokeless tobacco.  Oral cancers are about six times more prevalent in alcohol users versus non-drinkers.  When drinking is combined with tobacco use the risk rises significantly.  A risk factor that is rapidly becoming more common is infection with the HPV virus.  Studies are ongoing to study the link between HPV and oral cancers.

Because there are no symptoms in the early stages of oral cancer it is important to get regular screenings – especially if you fall into a high risk group.  If it has been a while since your last comprehensive dental exam please contact the Wilbanks Smile Center at 706-886-9439 to schedule your appointment.   My team and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have about oral cancer screening.

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