The importance of professional oral cancer screening

What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening

An oral cancer screening, performed by an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon, can detect cancerous and precancerous tissues early on, when treatment is typically easier.

Everyone can benefit from a professional screening, but regular checks are particularly essential for heavy drinkers, tobacco users and people who spend a great deal of time out in the sun. Those factors, along with a previous oral cancer diagnosis, increase the risk of developing the disease.

If you’ve never had a professional screening for oral cancer, you may be wondering what the process entails.

The importance of professional oral cancer screening

Patient Questions

When you visit an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for a professional oral cancer screening, the first step is usually a chat. You can expect a number of questions, including:

  • Are you experiencing any oral health problems?
  • Have you seen or felt a lesion, lump or abnormality inside your mouth?
  • Have you noticed a change in swallowing?
  • Do you have persistent earaches or chronic hoarseness?

The information you provide can help guide the examination and the steps taken afterward.

General Examination

Next, your oral surgeon will conduct a visual exam. This is a thorough inspection of every part of your mouth to identify warning signs of oral cancer, including:

  • Red, white or mottled patches
  • Rough or thickened mouth tissues
  • Lumps, lesions and sores

A physical exam accompanies or follows the visual inspection. This involves feeling the inside of your mouth to check for bumps and abnormalities. Your surgeon will also feel for unusual masses or nodules around your jaw and neck, as those can be signs of potential problems.

Additional Cancer Screening Tests

If your oral and maxillofacial surgeon spots anything unusual, you may be asked to come back for a second screening a few weeks later. Or you might need one or more additional oral cancer screening tests, such as:

  • Toluidine blue stain – With this procedure, a coat of blue dye is applied to the inside of your mouth. If any areas appear darker, the tissues are likely cancerous or precancerous.
  • Fluorescence staining – For this cancer screening test, you’ll use a fluorescent mouth rinse. Then, using a special light, your surgeon will look for abnormalities.
  • Exfoliative cytology – Using a brush or small wooden swab, your surgeon will gently scrape cells from inside your mouth. The cells are then viewed with a microscope.
  • Brush biopsy – This cancer screening procedure involves removing a sample of cells that encompasses every layer of a lesion. Laboratory testing determines whether cancerous tissues are present.

    If you live in the greater east central Indiana area, schedule a professional oral cancer screening with Richmond Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

    Our board-certified oral surgeons, Dr. Partridge and Dr. Alderman, have extensive expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of a vast range of oral health conditions. We provide compassionate care and work to ensure that every patient has a positive experience.

    For more information on Richmond Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, or to schedule your professional oral cancer screening, contact us today.