Oral Cancer Exam
Dentist visits are very important to overall health, but it is even more important when you suffer from oral cancer. Oral cancer exams are very thorough and life-saving. We are very familiar with cancer in other areas of the body, but we are not totally familiar with cancer in the mouth. Tumors can form in the gums, on the tongue, and even in the cheek. Sometimes tumors are small and nearly undetectable. Other times, tumors are larger and can be felt. When you are consistent with your dental appointments, the doctor can detect early signs of oral cancer. Early detection leads to a better prognosis.
We brush our teeth daily, but we can sometimes ignore the importance of oral health. We put more emphasis on the health of our body and separate the mouth from the rest of the body. Many people are faithful to go to their primary care physician yearly, but when it comes to the dentist, they may not go for years. That should not be the case. If you put as much emphasis on your oral health as you do your bodily health, you can live a long healthy life. If you have a family history of oral diseases, specifically cancer, you should be consistent in making doctor appointments.
A dentist is responsible for the health of your mouth. Oral cancer starts just like any other cancer. Your cells begin to go haywire. Sometimes they mutate and other times they just grow abnormally. When that happens, the cells create growths. These growths become tumors which may be either benign or malignant. The only way to assess whether or not tumors are benign or malignant is through an oral cancer exam. Oral cancer exams are important and may require some cutting and anesthesia. You may be a bit leery about having one, but it could save your life.
Typically when you go to the dentist for a check-up, they will take X-rays and go about the process of cleaning your teeth. An oral cancer exam is not as easy and laid back. The doctor will take X-rays first to exam the location of the tumor. Pharynx and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of oral cancer. The pharynx is more so considered the throat, but it is connected to the mouth. When you have throat cancer, it is easy for cancer to spread to the mouth or vice versa.
Once X-rays reveal the location and size of the tumor, the next step is to confirm whether or not the tumor is cancerous. Some tumors are not cancerous and are just growths. Sometimes a visual exam can confirm a cancer diagnosis. The dentist can see if there are abnormalities in the outer layer of cells. Sometimes looking at the mouth does not clarify anything because it looks normal from the outside. The doctor has cut out part of the tumor and do a biopsy. The biopsy is done on a part and not the whole thing. When tumors are small, the doctor may remove the whole thing from testing. When tumors are larger, they only take a piece. The piece of the tumor is sent off to a lab where a tech looks under a microscope to see if the cells are cancerous or not. If they are, then more treatment measures must be taken.
Once a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will schedule you for surgery, and they may start chemotherapy or radiation right away. A lot of times with oral cancer, the doctor will choose to do radiation. Radiation is a bit more specific and attacks the tumor without damaging other parts. If the tumor is not that large, they may remove the tumor first before starting other methods of treatment. When cancer is caught in its first stages, the prognosis is great because it has not spread to other parts of the mouth or other parts of the body. Once cancer starts to spread, especially in the lymph nodes, the prognosis is not nearly as good. You cannot have an oral cancer exam without going to a dentist. The dentists are here for a reason. No one wants to hear bad news, but when you ignore your symptoms, you only make things worse.
Hearing that you have cancer is one of the most heart-wrenching things ever. Hearing that it was caught early, and you have a great chance of beating it makes things all better. You cannot have an early diagnosis if you do not go to the dentist. You cannot be scared of going. So many people know something is wrong, and they just ignore their symptoms until it is too late. Do not be that person. Take control of your oral health by staying consistent with your appointments. That one appointment may change your life forever.
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