Oral Cancer Screening in Post Office Square, Boston, MA
An oral cancer screening is one of the best diagnostic tools we have. It helps us find cancerous or precancerous lesions. If caught in the early stages, we can refer you to a doctor for treatment before the disease has a chance to progress.
Why Patients Should Have Regular Oral Cancer Screenings
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 54,000 people will develop oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. Of those, nearly 11,000 deaths will occur.
Oral cancer is typically found in seniors (average age = 63 years), but 20% of cases occur in people under the age of 55.
The main reason your dentist recommends oral cancer screenings in Post Office Square on a regular basis is to save your life. Even if oral cancers do not progress to the point of taking a life, they can severely damage the tissues of your mouth, face, and neck.
Most often, oral cancers occur in the:
- Oropharynx (the middle part of the throat)
- Floor of the mouth
- Salivary glands
- Roof of the mouth
Patients with progressed cancer cases sometimes need to have all or part of the following surgically removed:
- Lymph nodes in the neck
We do not want to see any of our patients endure this, which is why we perform annual oral cancer screenings. If patients have a history of soft tissue lesions, precancerous lesions, or oral cancer, we can perform oral cancer screenings more often.
Who Is at a Higher Risk of Developing Oral Cancer
People with a higher risk of oral cancer include those who:
- Use tobacco or any kind (chew, cigarettes, snuff, cigars, pipes)
- Are heavy alcohol users
- Have had cancer in the past
- Have a history of excessive sun exposure (increased risk of lip cancer)
Over the past few years, the rate of oropharyngeal cancer has been on the rise. Researchers are not sure why this is happening. However, several oral cancers have been associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
What to Expect During Your Screening
During a routine cancer screening, your Post Office Square dentist examines the inside of your mouth. They are looking for:
- Mouth sores
- Red or white patches
- Other soft-tissue anomalies
Your dentist will also feel the tissues of your mouth with their fingers to check for lumps. They will also check your throat and neck for lumps or abnormalities.
If a dentist notices something out of the norm, they can perform additional tests, including:
- Oral cancer screening dye: You will rinse your mouth with a special dye. Abnormal cells (possibly cancerous or precancerous) take up the dye and change color (from pink to blue, for example).
- Oral cancer screening light: A special light may be used that makes abnormal tissues appear white.
Oral Cancer Screening in Post Office Square: The Follow-Up Appointment
There are two steps your dentist can take if they find abnormalities.
First, they might recommend a follow-up visit. This visit will take place a few weeks later, during which time your dentist will evaluate whether the abnormal area is still present. If it is, they will note whether it is changed over the past few weeks.
Second, they can perform an in-office brush biopsy. A small brush or Q-tip is rubbed against the tissue to obtain a sample of the skin cells. The sample is then sent to a laboratory to test for the presence of cancer cells. If you have a lump, your dentist may refer you to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing oral cancer for a biopsy.
Regular Dental Visits Help Us Catch Issues Early
The number one reason why we urge our patients to see their Post Office Square dentist regularly is so we can find issues early. Whether it is dental decay, gum disease, or oral cancer – we want to do all we can to help treat the diseases in the early stages so you can stay healthy and strong.
Has it been a while since your last dental check-up? Call our office at (857) 578-2200 to schedule an appointment.