Oral cancer is one of the single deadliest known forms of cancer. Though we often hear about mortality rates for other types of cancer, such as cervical and testicular cancer, oral oropharyngeal cancer is deadlier than both, with a 5-year survival rate of only 57%.
This high mortality rate is because the vast majority of oral cancer patients neglect regular oral cancer screenings. Because of this, the disease is usually caught in late stages of development when treatment is much less effective.
In early stages of development, there are often very few symptoms of this cancer. This means that, unless preventative screenings are done, the cancer is only discovered once it metastasizes to another location; usually the lymph nodes in the neck.
It’s absolutely critical to get oral cancer screenings at your regular dental check ups. Dr. H. Jonathan Lee and Dr. Marie A. Moeckel of Carmel Mountain Dental Care offer complimentary yearly screenings to all their patients. It’s important to understand that these screening don’t offer a diagnosis. But they can catch abnormalities that you may not notice, and refer you to a specialist who can give an accurate diagnosis.
How Do You Get Oral Cancer?
Use of any kind of tobacco – including smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, and pipes – is the single largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer. In fact, 85% of head and neck cancer is linked to tobacco use.
Alcohol use is also a contributing factor. When alcohol and tobacco use are combined, research suggests that the risk of oral cancer increases dramatically.
HPV has also been a cause of some oral cancer, especially in younger generations. Luckily, of the very few HPV strains that could cause cancer, only one of those is strongly associated with oral cancer. However, this doesn’t mean you should go unchecked. Any opportunity to find oral cancer as early as possible should be taken.
Who Should Get Oral Cancer Screenings?
The short answer – everyone.
Although there are certain habits that put individuals at greater risk of developing oral cancer, no one is immune. Oral cancer screenings can be performed during your regular dental appointments, with no special preparation required.
At Carmel Mountain Dental Care, your doctor will examine you for signs of oral cancer, such as sore spots, lumps and abnormalities, and red or white patches of tissue. They’ll also use a VELscope® to detect abnormalities. This device uses a fluorescent light to detect abnormalities, as abnormal tissues absorb the light differently than healthy tissue. The process is simple, non-invasive, and totally painless.
How Often Do I Need to Be Screened?
The ADA recommends that all patients be screened for oral cancer as part of their routine dental examinations, at least once per year. Regular oral cancer screenings are often the only way to detect early-stage oral cancer, as oral cancer symptoms don’t usually manifest until the cancer spreads.
Get Your Oral Cancer Screenings at Carmel Mountain Dental Care!
At Carmel Mountain Dental Care, all patients receive a yearly oral cancer VELscope® screening and a comprehensive exam at every dental check up. Doing so increases the chance of early detection, allowing for the best possible treatment.
If you’re in the Rancho Peñasquitos, 4S Ranch, Del Sur, Rancho Bernardo, or Poway community, you can call us for an appointment and ensure that you’ll be screened every year. Call us for an appointment today at (858) 484-4880, or visit our office at 9310 Carmel Mountain Rd Ste. A, San Diego, CA 92129.