According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer every year, a condition that causes over 9,750 deaths annually. Of those newly diagnosed individuals, about 43% will be dead within the next 5 years. The high death rate from oral cancers is due partly to the difficulties in detecting them early, and from their propensity to cause secondary cancers before treatment can begin. If we hope to reduce the death rate from oral cancers, detecting them as early as possible is crucial. The medical community is currently working hard to develop reliable methods to detect oral cancers early in their development, and raising awareness is part of that important mission. That is why April has been established as Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
This month, we encourage you to read up on oral cancer symptoms and early detection so you can be in a better position to recognize early-stage oral cancer. Your dentist can be a strong ally in your efforts. The next time you visit the dentist for a checkup, be sure to ask about oral cancer screening. This procedure is non-invasive, painless, and can be conducted in just a few minutes during your usual dental checkup. At American Dental, it is our hope that over the next decade, oral cancer screenings will become a regular part of all dental checkups. If you would like to know more, read on to find out what you can expect during an oral cancer screening.
Oral Cancer Screening Procedures
Detecting oral cancer is a relatively low-tech process. During an exam, your dentist will look at your mouth and throat, paying special attention to any abnormalities like sores or red or white patches. A special blue dye may also be used to stain any potentially cancerous cells and make them easier to identify. An oral cancer screening light can also make healthy tissue appear dark, while any potentially cancerous cells will appear white. If any abnormalities are identified during these procedures, a biopsy will be taken, and the cells sent to a lab to determine if they are cancerous. You may also be asked to attend a follow-up visit a few weeks later to see if the abnormal area has grown or changed over time.
Oral cancer screening is as simple as that! All of these detection methods are completely painless and only take a few minutes, so there is no reason to avoid them. While the current rate of early detection is still relatively low, our hope is that as more dental practices adopt this procedure during checkups, more early-stage oral cancers will be identified. As is the case with all cancers, early detection can greatly improve a patient’s chances of fighting back.
Chicago Area General Dentistry
If you are looking for general dentistry in the Chicago, IL area, American Dental has 8 locations to serve you. Our team can conduct an oral cancer screening during your next checkup and let you know if we find anything concerning. With awareness and screening, we can improve the early detection rate of oral cancers and improve the survival rate!