Oral Cancer Exam Procedure

Do you smoke? Has it been a while since your last visit to the dentist’s office? Are you concerned that you may be at a risk of oral cancer? If you answered yes to any of those questions, it might be time to make an appointment at your local Vancouver dentist and get an oral cancer screening done. According to the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, approximately 3,200 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in Canada this year and many more people will be diagnosed with dysplasia (pre-cancer).  Canadian statistics indicate that more people are diagnosed with oral cancer than cervical or ovarian cancer, and more people die from oral cancer in a year than melanoma or cervical cancer. However, the good news is, dental professionals are able to detect 84% of cases early.

Oral cancer screening is quick and easy and involves no discomfort! A screening is critical for early diagnosis and prevention. The procedure takes less than 5 minutes and can be done at your local dentist’s office by either a dental hygienist or dentist at your regular check-up appointment. Your dental professional will be examining your mouth for any lumps or abnormalities, red, white, or grey areas, and/or tenderness.

What you should expect at a regular oral cancer exam

Oral Cancer Exam

The following should be a part of a normal oral cancer examination:

  1. A physical examination of the inside and outside of your gums and cheeks, extending all the way from the top to the bottom and the front to the back.
  2. An examination and inspection of the floor of your mouth, underneath your tongue, and the roof of your mouth.
  3. An inspection of your lymph nodes in your neck and jaw and an examination of the inside and outside of your lips, your major salivary glands (cheeks and floor of your mouth), as well as your jaw joint and the area surrounding your ears.
  4. A visual inspection of you face for signs of swelling or asymmetry.
  5. Your tongue should be gently pulled out to inspect the back, sides, bottom, and top.
  6. Your dental professional should have you extend your tongue and say “ahhh” to inspect the back of your mouth and throat.
  7. A discussion regarding your smoking/drinking habits, your lifestyle, and any specific health conditions you may have. Medications you are taking which could affect the condition of your mouth or head and neck area should also be discussed.

Some dental offices may use a scope equipped with a special light that reveals cancerous and precancerous lesions as dark areas. This scope will most likely be used in conjunction with a visual inspection.

Screenings should be done every six months or whenever you go in for your regular cleaning and check-up appointment. If you feel like your dental professional is not performing the check to your satisfaction or not performing one at all, be sure to voice your concerns. All dental hygienists and dentists are trained in oral exam screening procedure.

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