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Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is a devastating illness. Every year, it affects the lives of over 40,000 people across the United States. Of those 40,000, only about half live past 5 years of being diagnosed. Early detection is key. During your visits at Mark A. Coussens, DMD Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we conduct thorough oral exams. We check the condition of your teeth and your gums, looking for signs of tooth damage and gum disease. However, we also do something else – we conduct an oral cancer screening.

Oral cancer covers any cancer that affects the mouth. This includes your lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, palate, the floor of the mouth and even the back of the mouth, near the entrance to the throat. It can significantly impact even the most basic, yet important functions of your mouth, including eating and speech. If not detected, and treated, early, the chances of survival past five years are small.

Are You at Risk?

There are a few different factors that put you at risk for developing oral cancer:

•  Smoking, or the use of any tobacco product. Studies have shown that individuals who smoked or used any other type of tobacco product, make up to 90% of oral cancer patients.
•  Excessive drinking. Between 70 and 80% of oral cancer patients had been heavy drinkers at some point in their lives.
•  Age. Older adults are more likely to develop oral cancer.
•  Family history. If someone in your family line has had oral cancer, your chances of developing the same condition are raised.
•  HPV. Certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) can raise your risk for oral cancer.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

During your regular dental visits, we perform a thorough oral cancer screening, checking your mouth for symptoms of oral cancer. However, the disease can strike anytime, so it is important to know what symptoms to be on the lookout for. Moreover, if you notice them, you should call right away:

•  Red or white patches in your mouth.
•  Sores that refuse to heal.
•  Unusual growths in your mouth.
•  Difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking.
•  A change in your bite, or the way your dentures fit.
•  A numb feeling in your jaw or chin.
•  Constant earache that refuses to go away.

Diagnosing and Treating Oral Cancer

A thorough oral exam is only part of diagnosing oral cancer. We may also take X-rays and perform a biopsy on any area of your mouth that looks odd. A biopsy involves taking a sample of the tissue in your mouth to examine it under a microscope. There are a few ways in which this can be done:

•  An incisional biopsy, also known as a diagnostic biopsy.
•  Excisional biopsy, used for small lesions.
•  Punch biopsy, frequently used for biopsies toward the back of the mouth, a special tool removes several layers of the tissue.
•  Brush biopsy, the cells are removed with a brush.

A biopsy is our best tool in diagnosing or ruling out oral cancer. With an accurate diagnosis, we can then take action. Treatment could involve simply removing the lesion, or further treatment may be required.

Regular visits for exams can help to detect signs of oral cancer early before it’s too late. However, if you notice any symptoms in between your scheduled visits, do not delay. Call Mark A. Coussens, DMD Family & Cosmetic Dentistry at (503) 567-4121 right away.

Mark A. Coussens DMD

433 SE Baseline Street Hillsboro, OR 97123-4103