San Juan Capistrano
Oral Cancer Examination
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Monday - Friday: 9:00am - 5:00pm | Saturday: By Appointment Only
An oral examination is vital to early detection and survival rate for oral cancers. Your dentist usually checks your face, neck and mouth for possible signs of cancer. The exam normally takes no longer than two minutes. This exam should be done at every routine check-up.
Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Heavy alcohol use
- History of significant sun exposure, (increases the risk of lip cancer)
- Exposure to the HPV-16 Virus ( Human Papilloma Virus Version 16)
What To Expect
Before an oral cancer screening exam begins, your dentist will ask you to remove any complete or partial dentures. Dentures must be removed so the dentist is able to see all the soft tissue in your mouth for a proper and thorough oral cancer exam. Once dentures (if any) are removed, your dentist inspects the inner linings of your mouth to check for any abnormalities such as red or white patches or mouth sores. Your dentist will also feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities.
An oral cancer screening can lead to further testing should your dentist notice any abnormalities. It is actually very common for people to have certain sores in their mouths since a great majority of sores found are non-cancerous. However, an oral exam cannot determine which sores are cancerous and which are not. Should your dentist find an abnormal sore, you may go through further testing to determine its cause. There is only way to definitively determine whether you have oral cancer - a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure in which some abnormal cells are removed from the sore and then are test for cancer. Keep in mind, oral cancer screenings can't detect all mouth cancers. Please be aware that oral cancer screenings have not been proven to save lives. There is no evidence that routine oral cancer exams reduce the number of deaths caused by oral cancer. However, screening for oral cancer may help find cancers in their earliest stages — when cure is more likely. Early detection is key to a better survival rate.
Your dentist may want to schedule a follow-up visit a few weeks after your oral cancer exam to see if the abnormal area is still present. Your dentist will want to note whether the abnormality has grown or changed over time. Should your biopsy lab results determine cancer cells are present, your dentist may decide to refer you to a doctor who specializes in oral cancer diagnosis and treatment.