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Marco Island Dental Blog

Island Tower Dentistry

Oral Cancer Screening

What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer Screening

More than 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers yearly, and over 11,500 die from the disease, according to the latest American Cancer Society (ACS) data. With a lifetime risk of developing oral cancer at about one in 60 for men and one in 141 for women, you’re much more likely to experience gum disease or other oral health concerns than oral cancer. Still, you do not want to risk becoming an American Cancer Society statistic.

For this reason, Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke of Island Tower Dentistry offers Southwest Florida patients oral cancer screening. Early detection and treatment provide patients with more treatment options and improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Oral Cancer Basics

As part of the broad category of head and neck cancers, about 90% of oral cancers are diagnosed as squamous cell carcinomas. Oral cancers can emerge on the tongue, tonsils, palates, throat, gums, inner cheeks, lips, salivary glands, and anywhere in the mouth except the teeth.

The average age of oral cancer diagnosis is 64, but 20% of new cases occur in those younger than 55. Incidence rates have increased by less than 1% per year in women since 2015 but have remained stable in men. However, oral cancer linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has experienced a 2.8% increase in men and a 1.3% increase in women.

What Your Dentist Checks for During an Oral Cancer Screening

An oral cancer screening consists of a visual and physical examination designed to detect abnormalities that might signify the presence of oral cancer or other health concern. Your dentist may also inspect the interior of your mouth with a specialized light that helps detect precancerous cells that are invisible to the naked eye.

Potential signs of oral cancer include:

  • Lumps, growths, nodules, or unusual masses
  • Thickening of the skin within the mouth
  • Inability to move usually mobile tissue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Sore throat resistant to healing
  • Unusual swelling
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Patchy skin inside the mouth presenting as white or red
  • Trouble wearing dentures
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when swallowing or persistent pain in the neck, tongue, jaw, and/or ears

If your dentist uncovers any abnormalities that they feel needs further testing, they will refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who will probably conduct a tissue biopsy and other tests to determine whether they are cancerous.

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

Like breast and other regular cancer screenings, oral cancer screening helps uncover the disease early. This allows for more treatment options that improve the odds of successful treatment. According to the ACS, diagnosed oral cancers that have not yet spread to other parts of the body carry a five-year survival rate of 86.3%.

How Often You Should be Screened

There are no established medical or dental organization protocols for the frequency of oral cancer screening. However, many dentists recommend that everyone over age 40 be screened annually, and those over 20 be screened every three years. Anyone with the following specific risk factors should request an annual oral cancer screening:

  • HPV diagnosis
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • History of heavy alcohol consumption
  • Family history of cancer

Contact Island Tower Dentistry for Your Oral Cancer Screening

If you have concerns about any abnormalities in your mouth or are otherwise have interest in scheduling an oral cancer screening, Island Tower Dentistry can help. We offer patients comprehensive oral cancer screening and expertise in the full range of dental services in the Marco Island, Florida, area. To learn more, contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004.

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  • 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Ste 200, Marco Island, Florida 34145
  • Monday through Thursday | 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

  • Closed Fridays | Call our office for emergencies

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