What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancers include cancers that develop on the surface of the tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, roof and floor of the mouth, lips, gums, salivary glands, tonsils, and pharynx. Mouth cancers form when cells develop mutations in their DNA. It is not clear what causes these mutations.
What risk factors can contribute to Oral Cancer?
Your health history helps us determine your risk factors for oral cancer. HPV is shown to be related in at least 70% or oral cancer cases. Smoking and alcohol use is also linked to an increased risk of developing oral cancer. For these reasons, we ask patients to disclose this information on our health history form so that our providers can be aware of any increased risk.
How and when do we check for Oral Cancer?
Early detection is key in treating oral cancer. We strongly encourage you to schedule routine, preventative care visits at your recommended interval. At each checkup, an oral cancer exam is performed by your hygienist and dentist. Each provider checks for trauma, lumps and bumps, and irregular looking ulcers or lesions that may be sore or red, white, brown or black in color. We assess the palate, cheeks, gums and both sides of and under the tongue.
If we find something suspicious, what are the next steps?
You may be asked if you have noticed a bump or lesion and how long it has been there. We will take an intra oral photo, measurements, note the location and share this information with you. Most times, we will ask that you watch the lesion or area for any changes for two weeks. If it hasn’t resolved within two weeks, we will reassess the area, which could include a biopsy.