Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Important

January 15, 2021

Did you know that oral cancer screening can save your life? We understand that oral cancer can be frightening to talk about and it’s not something you’d want to see your dentist for, but it’s a critical conversation nonetheless. At Cambrian Dental in NW Calgary, our priority is to detect oral cancer early on so that we can effectively treat it and achieve the best possible outcome.

The following are some of the most important points about oral cancer and why we recommend scheduling an oral cancer screening service in Calgary.

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the mouth. Without treatment, these cancer cells can grow, destroy tissues, and spread into other areas of the body. Oral cancer can occur in the gums, on and under the tongue, on the lips, inside of the cheeks, and roof of the mouth.

The symptoms of oral cancer

The earliest sign of oral cancer is typically a sore anywhere on the above areas that do not go away. Possible symptoms include:

  • Eroded spots in the mouth, gums, or the lips
  • Constant, unexplained bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Pain or numbness in the mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Sore throat that won’t go away
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, and discomfort while chewing

The above symptoms can also indicate a different health issue, another reason to get screened so that we can rule out oral cancer early on and identify what is causing these symptoms.

What causes oral cancer

While there is no official known cause, the following risk factors can increase your chances of developing oral cancer:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol drinking
  • Constant exposure to UV rays with no protection
  • HPV
  • A weak immune system

It’s important to note that some people who have been diagnosed with oral cancer aren’t high risk, further emphasizing the importance of getting screened - regardless if you are low risk.

The reason for oral cancer screening

We recommend oral cancer screening to begin at 18 years of age. Your dentist can do a screening during your routine exam, about once or twice a year depending on the health of your teeth and gums. The main reason screening is important is because it allows your dentist to detect the cancer early on, which can give you a better chance at slowing down its growth or stopping it altogether.

If oral cancer is caught early enough, the chances of successfully treating it are high with a high survival rate. Another advantage of screening for oral cancer is that it gives your dentist the opportunity to ask about any symptoms or issues you may be experiencing. Even if oral cancer is ruled out, the underlying condition can be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

What to expect during an oral cancer screening

When you schedule a regular checkup at our Cambrian Dental Clinic in NW Calgary, your dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening exam. We can detect early signs of oral cancer by:

  • Asking you about specific symptoms you may be experiencing
  • Looking for sores and discoloured tissue
  • Feeling for lumps and irregularities

If your dentist suspects that oral cancer is present, a biopsy will be needed to make a definitive diagnosis.

In between appointments, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene and call us right away if you start to experience any symptoms or discover any irregularities.

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