How Often Should I Have an Oral Cancer Screening?

You should get an oral cancer screening at your dentist at least once a year, as long as you do not have any risk factors. If you are at risk for oral cancer, you need to be screened every six months. Regular screenings allow your dentist to find oral cancer in its early stages. Then you are more likely to respond to treatment. Find out which factors put you at risk and learn the signs of oral cancer. Also, learn more about the screening process for oral cancer.

Oral cancer screening risk factors, signs and process

Dentists evaluate patients to determine if they have any factors that put them at risk for oral cancer. Patients who have risk factors are put on a screening schedule, so dentists can look for changes and catch cancer early. Patients are also encouraged to look for symptoms of oral cancer between visits. Those who exhibit any symptoms need to visit the dentist immediately to get a screening.

Oral cancer risk factors

Various factors put patients at an increased risk of developing oral cancer. Risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, HPV and a previous cancer diagnosis. People with weakened immune systems and poor oral health are also at risk. In addition, people who have a family history of oral cancer experience a greater risk. Patients should go over the risk factors with the dentist. Then the dentist will know that additional screenings are necessary.

Symptoms of oral cancer

People also need to be mindful of the symptoms of oral cancer. People who have one or more of the symptoms should schedule an appointment with the dentist immediately. Symptoms include bumps, lumps or patches in the mouth and feeling like something is located in the back of the throat. People might experience a sore throat that does not go away, ear pain, unexplained bleeding and bite changes. Dramatic weight loss is also a symptom when it is not related to diet and exercise.

What is the oral cancer screening process?

The screening process consists of a visual and physical exam. The physical exam includes touching the jaw, under the chin, cheeks and head. If the dentist notices anything that might be cancerous, a biopsy might be needed. The biopsy is sent to a lab and then the patient receives the results.

Do you need a cancer screening?

An oral cancer screening should be a part of your oral care routine. You need to get screened at least once a year. However, if you have risk factors, get screened at least twice a year. You should also look for symptoms at home, and if you find any, schedule an appointment with the dentist. The screening process is relatively quick, and your dentist will let you know if any issues are identified during the exam. If your dentist finds any areas of concern, a biopsy will be sent to a lab to rule out oral cancer.

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