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Oral Cancer Screening
Silver Spring, MD

The ADA recommends that you have dental exams twice a year. These dental exams are crucial for helping you to maintain your oral health. We can detect a wide array of different oral health issues in their earliest stages and provide you with the treatment you need right away. Early detection and treatment are essential for restoring your oral health and preventing more serious consequences from arising. Your teeth are looked over for signs of physical damage and decay. Your gums are examined for signs of infection, including redness, swelling, and the formation of periodontal pockets. There is one more important part of your routine dental exams. During your exams, Metropolitan Dental Specialty Group also performs an oral cancer screening.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth. It is the largest group of head and neck cancers and affects over 40,000 Americans every year. Oral cancer can strike just about anywhere in the mouth and may start on the lips, the tongue, the cheeks, the gums, the roof of the mouth, or at the back near the entrance of your throat. Treatment for oral cancer is essential in the early stages.

The longer the issue goes untreated, the more it spreads. This makes treatment much more difficult. Without prompt treatment, oral cancer can be fatal. The earlier treatment is provided, the greater your chances for successful treatment and a complete recovery.

What are the Types of Oral Cancer?

There are a few different types of oral cancer that may develop. These include
•  Squamous cell carcinoma. Your mouth and your throat are lined with squamous cells. Abnormal squamous cells are oral cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 90% of all oral cancers.
•  Minor salivary carcinomas. This type of oral cancer refers to the different types of oral cancers that can impact your salivary system.
•  Verrucous carcinoma. This type of oral cancer accounts for about 5% of all oral cancers. It is a slow growing type made up of squamous cells, and it rarely spreads to other regions.
•  Lymphoma. This type of oral cancer affects the lymph tissues, which are part of your immune system.

There are also non-cancerous conditions that can develop that may become cancerous or precancerous. These conditions include
•  Benign tumors. You can develop non-cancerous tumors or tumor-like conditions. While these tumors may be benign, they can sometimes become cancerous later, so treatment is often recommended.
•  Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a condition in which white patches appear on your intraoral tissues. While it is non-cancerous, it can become pre-cancerous. Because of this, a biopsy is often recommended.
•  Erythroplakia. Erythroplakia causes red patches on your intraoral tissues. Like leukoplakia, the condition is generally non-cancerous, but can become pre-cancerous.

Am I at Risk?

Oral cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age or sex. However, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease. Some of the most common risk factors for oral cancer include
•  Using tobacco products. Approximately 90% of all oral cancer patients have smoked cigarettes or used other types of tobacco products. Tobacco products are one of the biggest risk factors.
•  Alcohol consumption. The occasional drink may not play a role in your risk for oral cancer, but excessive alcohol consumption can. Between 70 and 80% of oral cancer patients have been heavy drinkers. Those who smoke and drink have an exponentially higher risk of developing oral cancer.
•  A family history of oral cancer. If you have a close relative, such as a grandparent or parent, who has had oral cancer, your risk is higher.
•  Certain genetic factors. There are a few different types of genetic conditions that can increase your risk. Some of these genetic conditions include Fanconi anemia, which is a blood condition caused by genetic abnormalities, and dyskeratosis congenita.
•  UV light exposure. Those who have seen a significant amount of UV light exposure without proper protection are more likely to develop oral cancer on the lips.
•  HPV. HPV or human papilloma virus is a group of viruses that are the result of a sexually transmitted infection. There are several strains of HPV, with only a handful of them being linked to oral cancer. HPV16 has the strongest link.
•  Your age. Oral cancer is more likely to occur in adults over the age of 55.
•  Your sex. While oral cancer can affect men and women, men are more likely to develop the disease.

In addition to these risk factors, there are factors that have not yet been proven but are believed to increase your risk. These factors are not backed by scientific studies and are controversial. Still, they are a concern for many individuals. These factors include
•  The use of mouthwash, particularly mouthwash that contains alcohol.
•  Irritation on your gums caused by dentures that do not fit properly. When your dentures do not fit correctly, they rub your gums and irritate. Long-term irritation is thought to be a risk factor for oral cancer. While this is not a proven risk factor, ill-fitting dentures can trap cancer-causing substances between the base and your gums such as chemicals from tobacco products.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

When oral cancer first develops, you might never even know that anything is wrong. The earliest symptoms are difficult, even impossible to detect. Some symptoms may be mistaken for other issues, which can leave the disease to go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Some of the most common symptoms that can point toward oral cancer include
•  Having sores in your mouth that just will not heal. Sores that have been in your mouth for longer than two weeks can point toward oral cancer. This is one of the most common symptoms.
•  Red or white patches that develop on your intraoral tissues. These patches may be leukoplakia or erythroplakia, but they can also be indicative or oral cancer, so it is important to have them checked out right away.
•  Chronic mouth pain.
•  A lump that develops in your cheeks or other intraoral tissues.
•  Your jaw swells.
•  You develop a numb sensation in your tongue or chin.
•  Having difficulty chewing and swallowing.
•  A sore throat that refuses to get better.
•  The feeling that you have something stuck in your throat, but you cannot clear it out.
•  Loose teeth. When your teeth become loose, they can begin to shift out of proper alignment, which then alters your bite.
•  Your voice becomes hoarser.

Why are Oral Cancer Screenings Important?

The ADA recommends having your mouth professionally examined twice a year, or once every six months. These exams are important for detecting a wide array of different oral health issues in their earliest stages, allowing you to get the treatment you need to stop the progression of the issue and preventing serious complications from developing.

We look over your teeth for signs of chips, cracks, tooth decay, and cavities. We check your gums for redness, swelling, periodontal pockets, gum recession, and other signs of gum disease and infections. We can detect signs of these issues before you ever notice any symptoms. Early detection can also make treatment easier.

In addition to inspecting your teeth and gums, we also perform an oral cancer screening. Like the other parts of your oral exam, your oral cancer screening is essential for early detection. In this case, the screening allows us to detect the presence of oral cancer in its earliest stages. The early stages of oral cancer often do not exhibit any symptoms. In detecting oral cancer in its earliest stages, we can help you get prompt treatment to restore your oral health. The earlier oral cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Early treatment can also increase the chances that you make a full recovery. Without early detection, oral cancer is left to spread to other parts of your body. The longer it goes undetected, the more difficult it becomes to treat. It also increases the risk of oral cancer being fatal.

How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

The first stage in diagnosing oral cancer is your oral cancer screening. After we examine your teeth and gums, we take a look at your intraoral tissues looking for anything unusual. We look for lumps, patches of red or white, lesions, and other types of abnormalities. This screening is quick and completely painless, and you are often completely unaware that it happened.

If we do find something unusual, a closer examination is required. During this examination, we can diagnose the issue so that you can get the treatment that you need. There are several types of testing that may be performed to help accurately diagnose oral cancer. These tools include
•  A soft tissue biopsy. This is a test in which a small sample of the tissue from the abnormality is removed. We are then able to examine the tissue more closely under a microscope, which allows us to examine it at a cellular level. Biopsies are one of the most effective diagnostic tools, allowing us to diagnose or rule out the presence of oral cancer.
•  A fine needle aspiration, or FNA. When oral cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, masses can develop. An FNA involves inserting a tiny needle into the mass to remove cells so that we can examine them under a microscope.
•  CT scans. CT scans may be recommended if you have been diagnosed with oral cancer. This 2D or 3D scan shows cross sections of the body so it can be determined if oral cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body. A PET/CT scan may also be performed to determine if oral cancer has spread. This type of imaging involves injecting a dye into the bloodstream that collects in the cancerous cells.
•  An MRI. With an MRI, it can be detected if oral cancer has spread to other soft tissues in the head and neck, including the brain.

What are the Treatments for Oral Cancer?

If you have received an oral cancer diagnosis, it is imperative that you seek treatment immediately. The specific treatment you receive will depend upon how advanced oral cancer is, its location, and the type. There are a few different types of treatments available, including
•  Surgery. In the earliest stages of oral cancer, it may be possible to provide treatment with a surgical procedure to remove the growth or abnormality. In addition to removing the abnormality, a small amount of surrounding tissue may also be removed to ensure that all of the cancerous tissue has been eradicated. If cancer has spread to lymph nodes, these affected nodes will also need to be removed.
•  Radiation. Radiation treatment involves aiming a beam of radiation at the abnormality in your mouth. This type of treatment may be recommended once or twice a day for up to 5 days a week. The treatment time may range anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks.
•  Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a treatment that involves the use of drugs to eliminate cancerous cells. These drugs may be taken orally or delivered intravenously, or directly into the bloodstream through a needle. If oral cancer is in more advanced stages, chemotherapy and radiation treatment may be used in conjunction with one another.
•  Targeted therapy. This is another type of treatment that involves the use of drugs. With this particular type of treatment, the drugs bind with specific proteins in the cancerous cells. They work to inhibit the growth of these cells.

During your treatment, as well as your recovery from treatment, it is essential that you take care of yourself. Making sure that you eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet is essential. However, you may find that certain types of treatments affect your appetite.

In some cases, eating may be made more difficult. Try your best to eat a healthy diet to ensure that your body gets the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs to heal. During your treatment and recovery, it is also important that you keep your mouth clean, so good oral hygiene practices are imperative.

Your recovery after treatment depends upon the type of treatment you have received. In the treatment of more advanced stages, reconstruction or rehabilitation may be necessary to restore your abilities to eat and speak properly. After your treatment, it is important that you have regular follow-ups. This will help to ensure that the cancer was effectively treated and that all of the cancer has been removed from your body.

With routine dental exams, we can detect the earliest warning signs of oral cancer before you ever notice that there is a problem. In detecting oral cancer early, we can help you get the treatment you need right away, increasing your chances of making a full recovery. For more information on oral cancer screenings, and to schedule your next dental exam, call Metropolitan Dental Specialty Group at (301) 585-0400 today.
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Oral Cancer Screening Silver Spring, MD | Metropolitan Dental
During your visit to Metropolitan Dental Specialty Group in Silver Spring, your dentist can discuss your health & examine you for signs of mouth & throat cancer.
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