A trip to the dentist is far more than a simple routine to ensure your mouth is in tiptop shape. One of the series of tests performed by some dentist practitioners is used to identify the signs of early cancer.
While these screenings should not be described as “life-saving”, they do help to diagnose oral cancer in infancy, and early diagnosis means an improved chance for a cure.
We administer mouth cancer screenings in Leicester at our practice, Aesthetic Smiles, not only to keep your mouth in prime condition but also your overall health.
What can you expect from a cancer screening?
Cancer screening is a thorough mouth examination, where our dentist checks for red or white spots called lesions, while also feeling the tissue for any abnormalities or lumps.
The colouring of your tissue is also a telltale symptom of early-onset cancer – healthy tissue is dark, while cancerous tissue appears white. Instruments such as lights and mirrors are used to confirm signs of mouth diseases that could prove fatal.
The only difference between a screening and other standard procedures, are the tools that are used to highlight oral issues. Commonly used tools include micro-optic cameras and specialised blue light rays.
Remember that unusual lumps and bumps can be found in and around your mouth, and so checks for lumps are performed on the face, neck and nasal cavities, where anything unusual will be quickly identified. Bear in mind that these checks can be considered invasive. If you suffer from dental anxiety, let our dentist know ahead of time.
If the results of your initial mouth cancer screening in Leicester are inconclusive, an additional test might be necessary. Another commonly used method includes rinsing your mouth with a harmless dye. If there are abnormal cells, they will absorb the dye and show up blue.
Are mouth cancer screenings recommended to everyone?
Our dentist will use their discretion regarding whether mouth cancer screenings in Leicester are necessary or not. For some dental practitioners, the examination forms part of a routine.
That said, certain patients are dubbed higher risk than others because of the following factors:
- Smokers and tobacco users
- Heavy drinkers
- People previously diagnosed with cancer
- Sun damage caused by prolonged exposure without taking necessary precautions, i.e. sunblock.
What happens if my results show up positive?
Irregularities are not a definitive sign of cancer but should be regarded with caution. These sores, lesions, lumps or bumps might be benign or non-cancerous, but this should not be taken as an assumption.
Schedule another follow-up appointment with us in two weeks to see whether it has grown or changed shape. We might also advise you to undergo a biopsy with a specialised doctor. The procedure involves taking sample cells that are tested for cancer in a laboratory.
Debunking the myth: screenings cannot cure cancer
These procedures can identify early signs of cancer, and an early diagnosis is advantageous.
At the same time, not all abnormalities show up easily. Your mouth is a tiny space from which to administer the procedure, despite advanced technologies, and so irregularly shaped cells might go undetected. If you feel that something “isn’t quite right”, it is best that you see your local doctor straight away!
Worldwide, mouth cancers are the 6th most common types of cancer. They are directly linked to lifestyle causes and that means as you get older, you have more chance of developing them. So, unless you have been a teetotal, non-smoking, super-slim, vegan who has never had sex, you are at risk. If you are not one of the above (do you even know any?) and are over 35, then you need to make sure you have a mouth cancer screening in Leicester with us at Aesthetic Smiles once a year.
What are mouth and throat cancers?
Mouth and throat cancers occur when cells get damaged and start to grow out of control, forming tumours. They tend to show up on the upper throat, the mouth lining, the tongue, lips, tonsils and gums.
Drinking and smoking damages cells and exposes them directly the carcinogens in alcohol and tobacco. Also, some scientists think that alcohol can act as a solvent and help other dietary or environmental cancer-causing chemicals to enter the cells.
Who gets mouth cancers?
If you smoke and drink, you are even more likely to develop mouth cancer.
You are more likely to get mouth cancers if you are male, and if you are infected with the HPV virus. Being overweight also increases your chances.
Mouth cancer screening
We can do your screening after one of your bi-annual check-ups. We will carefully check inside your mouth, using a small mirror to look at less easy-to-see places such as under your tongue. Once we have checked your mouth, we will also use our fingertips to carefully feel through your neck to the top of your throat to check there is nothing untoward going on their either.
We will also ask you if you have noticed anything odd, such as a suddenly hoarse voice, or a tingly lip, or areas going numb.
Easy to treat
Mouth cancers that are caught early are usually treated very easily. Small lumps can just be cut out.
If you do suspect you have symptoms, don’t wait until you are due your next screening, come in and see us right away.
Although many of our patients may not know a lot about oral cancer, it’s still responsible for one death every hour. Cancer Research UK analysis has revealed that rates of mouth cancer has jumped by 68 per cent in the UK over the last 20 years.
This could be because mouth cancer typically gets diagnosed in its later stages after it’s had the chance to progress to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes. Therefore, it is extremely important not to miss your mouth cancer screening in Leicester at Aesthetic Smiles, as it can increase the chances of mouth cancer being treatable.
The facts about oral cancer
Oral cancer is classified as the cancer that occurs in your head and neck region. Oral cancer can also be tricky to diagnose, making mouth cancer screenings even more important. There’s also a high rate of reoccurrence with oral cancer, which means if you develop it once, it’s likely to come back again.
Routine examinations with your dentist here at Aesthetic Smiles is truly your first line of defense against oral cancer. Our dental team could find oral cancer early and early detection is the key to successful treatment and recovery from oral cancer.
Signs and symptoms
If you notice any lumps in your neck and mouth, changes to the colour of your gums, such as white patches, or suffer with sores or lesions that don’t heal within two weeks, we recommend you should book a mouth cancer screening with us.
By attending your regular check-up appointments and closely monitoring your own oral health, you’ll have the best chance of treating oral cancer successfully and with the least invasive treatment.
The screening process
Firstly, your dentist will need a detailed analysis of your oral health history to determine any risk factors that you might have that could increase your likelihood of getting oral cancer.
After this, we will then conduct an in-depth examination of the outside of your mouth, head and neck, followed by a thorough internal examination of your mouth, including the inside of your cheeks and under the tongue.