The Importance of Regular Oral Cancer Screenings

Dr. Steven M. Balloch in Hartford, CT, can provide an oral cancer screening during every six-month checkup. Regular preventative care and oral cancer screenings can result in the timely detection of disease, allowing you to begin treatment for serious illnesses as early as possible, when the prognosis is best. 

are you at risk of oral cancer?

The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that close to 50,000 patients are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer: 

  • Tobacco use 
  • Heavy alcohol use 
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Family history of oral cancer and genetic factors
  • Persistent viral or fungal infections such as human papillomavirus
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation
  • Frequent exposure to x-rays
  • Poor nutrition 
  • Chronic oral trauma from restorations or sharp teeth 

The early stages of oral cancer can be painless and present few or no symptoms, making the disease more difficult to detect without the use of oral cancer screening tools. However, there are some symptoms that can indicate serious oral health concerns: 

  • Abnormal growths or wart-like masses 
  • Sores and ulcers that do not heal within 14 days 
  • Persistent bad breath 
  • Red and white patches on the inside of the oral cavity 
  • Enlarged lymph nodes 
  • Lump or mass inside the mouth or neck 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Pain when speaking or chewing 
  • Persistent hoarseness 
  • Numbness in the oral cavity or facial tissue 
  • Persistent earache 
  • Jaw or tongue ache 
  • Swelling of the jaw 

It is important to understand that oral cancer does not always present symptoms, making regular screenings incredibly important.

If you do not currently visit a dentist on a regular basis, or if you have risk factors for developing oral cancer, we are here to provide the care you need and deserve.

Oral cancer screening procedure

During your examination, we will first assess your medical history. Next, you will undergo a visual screening of your oral cavity and extraoral tissues under a bright light. We will also check your neck for enlarged lymph nodes.

In addition to visual screening, we may use technology such as ViziLite® or VELscope® cancer screening systems. ViziLite and VELscope both use fluorescent light to highlight tissue abnormalities. 

If we detect an abnormality inside your oral cavity, we may perform a biopsy of the area to determine whether the cells are malignant or benign. A biopsy is a virtually painless, quick, and inexpensive method of determining if cancer is present. 

benefits of early detection

Even if you have no pain or physical changes, a dentist can detect abnormal changes in your tissue while the cancer is still in its earliest, least aggressive stages. In the United States, patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer in the early stages have an 80 percent survival rate after five years. The same study showed that high-risk patients who underwent three rounds of oral cancer screening reduced their mortality rates by 34 percent. A screening can also detect oral cancer before it spreads to other parts of the body, when a patient's chances of survival drop to less than 40 percent.

schedule an exam today 

If you do not currently visit a dentist on a regular basis, or if you have risk factors for developing oral cancer, we are here to provide the care you need and deserve. Call our office at (860) 659-8660 or contact us online to schedule an examination.