But, perhaps, you're a little nervous about the thought of oral cancer screening, unsure what to expect. If so, here is a basic overview of what an oral cancer screening examination involves:
1. The Visual Exam
The first step will be to ask you some pertinent health questions and maybe ask about any habits you have that might be risk factors, like smoking tobacco, drinking heavily, suffering from periodontal problems, or having generally poor oral health. If oral cancer runs in your family, that can also be a relevant risk factor.
But after that, comes the visual examination. At this point, the periodontist looks for any and all abnormalities. It could be a bump or lump in the mouth or on the neck, discoloration in the oral cavity, or anything at all unusual in the nose, on the lips, or on the face. Thus, while the main focus of the exam is typically inside the mouth, almost the whole head has to be examined as well.
Simple tools like small flashlights, mirrors, and tongue depressors will be used, and the periodontist will temporarily remove any non-permanent dental appliances and ask you to open wide and say "Ah."
2. The Physical Exam
Sometimes following or sometimes (at least in part) during the visual exam, a "physical" component of the exam that involves touching and feeling will take place. This is done to find any sensitive or sore spots and any area that causes pain even when gently pressed.
The doctor may touch the cheeks, jaw, chin, and throat, and then feel the periodontal and other soft tissue inside your oral cavity. Not only painful spots but also numb areas, swelling, or immobility where there should be mobility can be an indication.
Finally, you'll likely be asked to swallow while the exam is being conducted to make sure it feels normal.
3. Further Evaluation
If anything suspicious is found during the visual or physical exam, then your periodontist will follow up with further evaluation using various specialized medical devices for oral cancer screening.
Special blue dyes may be used to make any abnormalities in the mouth stand out for further visual inspection, or a special blue light can accomplish much the same effect. An Oral CDx brush can gather small amounts of tissue for a biopsy without causing any pain. And for a close-up visual of the back of the throat, a mini-camera on a fiber optic cable can be used.
If there's anything that merits further testing, your periodontist will likely recommend you to an oral cancer specialist.
No one wants to find out they have oral cancer, but early detection and treatment enabled by oral cancer screening greatly increases survival rates. To learn more, contact periodontist Dr. Raymond A. Kenzik in Ormond Beach, FL, today.