What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, refers to any cancer that develops on the oral cavity, including cancer of the lips, tongue, gums, floor of the mouth (under the tongue), the roof of the mouth, or the inner cheek lining.
Some symptoms of oral cancer include:
- A lump or growth inside the mouth
- A reddish or white patch inside the mouth
- Loose teeth
- A lip or mouth sore that won’t heal
- Painful or difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
- Mouth pain
Oral cancer can also cause a numb tongue or mouth.
What happens during an oral cancer exam?
During an oral cancer exam, Dr. Jodry examines your mouth for signs of cancer or precancerous lesions. First, she checks inside your mouth for sores, red patches, and white patches.
Then, with freshly gloved hands, she presses against your mouth tissues to feel for lumps or other abnormalities, such as normally mobile tissue that no longer moves. Finally, Dr. Jodry checks for lumps on your neck, throat, head, cheeks, and under your chin.
She may also ask you to swallow, to check for pain and difficulty with swallowing.
If Dr. Jodry finds any lesions or abnormalities in or on your oral cavity, she may either schedule regular follow-up appointments to watch for changes or refer you to a specialist for a biopsy.
During a biopsy, the specialist removes a small sample of cells from the area of concern and sends them into the lab for testing.
Remember that if Dr. Jodry refers you to a specialist for further testing, this does not mean that you have oral cancer. It simply means that Dr. Jodry wants to investigate your symptoms and make sure that you’re healthy.
Do I need an oral cancer exam?
As a part of a routine dental checkup, Dr. Jodry provides oral cancer exams to all of her patients. By participating in an exam, you’re giving yourself the best chance to catch any cancerous or precancerous lesions early.
This is important because the earlier you intervene, the better outcome you’re likely to have.
Oral cancer exams are especially beneficial if you have an increased risk for oral cancer from factors such as:
- Tobacco use in any form (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, etc.)
- A history of oral cancer
- A history of high sun exposure
- Heavy alcohol consumption
You’re also at a higher risk for oral cancer if you’re a man over 50, or if you’ve ever been diagnosed with oral human papillomavirus (HPV). Oral HPV can lead to cancer of the back of the throat, including the tonsils and the base of the tongue (oropharyngeal cancer) in some people.
No matter your risk factors, oral cancer exams help keep you safe, and that’s why they’re so important to the team at Kathryn Jodry, DDS. To schedule your routine checkup, or to learn more about oral cancer exams, call the office or book online today.