APPOINTMENTS

When to Check for Oral Cancer

 

Given the prevalence of new studies and news reports coming out about the link between the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, and oral cancer, many are wondering about when and how they should check for oral cancer. HPV was long known to be associated with cervical cancer, and vaccines were developed and marketed primarily to lower its incidence. The findings about the relationship between HPV and oral cancer, though, are relatively new.

 

In this article, we’ve gathered a bit of information about when to check for oral cancer. As always, if you have any concerns about oral cancer or any other serious disease or disorder, don’t hesitate to speak with your physician.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “most dentists perform an examination of your mouth during a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Some dentists may use additional tests to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.” However, there is no consensus among doctors as to whether or not those without risk factors for oral cancer should receive any additional testing for the disease.

 

A few of the risk factors that you should be most aware of when considering whether or not an oral cancer test is right for you include:

 

  • any kind of tobacco use (according to Cancer.gov, this includes “cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless and chewing tobacco”)
  • heavy alcohol use
  • chewing betel nuts (popular across Asia, these buzz-inducing, addictive substances produce symptoms similar to caffeine and nicotine; however, the risk for oral cancer among betel nut users is well-documented)
  • HPV infection
  • previous diagnosis of oral cancer
  • history of significant sun exposure

 

The decision about what kinds of screenings you want to undergo is a complicated one, one that you should make in consultation with your doctor and/or your dentist. The Cancer.gov website gives a helpful rundown of a variety of the factors that go into determining whether or not an in-depth oral cancer screening is right for you. In more than half of cases, cancer has already spread by the time oral cancers are able to be detected in the mouth, meaning that screening for oral cancer might not always be helpful. However, if you have any of the risk factors for oral cancer, and are concerned, it may be worth considering testing or different risk-reduction practices, including quitting smoking or drinking.

 

In conclusion, oral cancer screening may or may not be useful for you. The most important thing when considering whether you should undergo testing or screening for oral cancer is that you are making your decision in consultation with a medical professional who understands your risk factors and knows how to perform tests effectively. To schedule an appointment or dental screening with our dentists in Weddington call or schedule online.