Approximately 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, or cancer that occurs in any part of the mouth, this year. Oral cancer is very serious because it often goes unnoticed in its early stages. The disease may not produce noticeable symptoms or pain, so patients do not know there is a problem.
Therefore, you can understand the importance of undergoing regular oral cancer screenings with Dr. Lance Porter, who is very knowledgeable about the disease. The objective of an oral cancer screening is to identify signs of cancer early, when it is more easily treatable, or to rule out signs of cancer/precancerous conditions so you do not have to worry.
What Is the Goal of an Oral Cancer Screening?
During an oral cancer screening, Dr. Porter looks for anything that appears unusual and may indicate cancer or a precancerous condition, including the following:
- Patches of color or spots
If he discovers anything that seems abnormal during your screening, he may ask you to return for additional screenings; or, he could refer you to get additional tests to explore a specific symptom.
What Happens during an Oral Cancer Screening?
Oral cancer screenings usually take place during the exam portion of a check-up and cleaning. If you wear a removable dental appliance like dentures, you will need to remove it prior to the exam. The screening can usually be completed in less than five minutes.
During the screening, Dr. Porter performs a thorough visual exam of every part of your mouth. With a light and mirror, he looks at your lips, gums, tongue, insides of your cheeks, roof of your mouth and back of your throat. He will hold a tongue depressor over your tongue and ask you to say “ahh” to look at areas of your throat. He will also feel the area beneath your tongue as well as the skin under your chin or jaw for any nodules, bumps or lumps.
In addition to visually checking for any abnormalities, Dr. Porter will ask you whether there is any discomfort while he makes physical contact, as that can sometimes indicate a problem.
Dr. Porter will explain what he is doing at every step of the exam; this will help you feel more comfortable and it will also help you learn about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. By being more aware, you can watch out for signs and symptoms in between visits and schedule an appointment if you notice something suspicious.
Dr. Porter also sees the oral cancer screening as an opportunity to discuss your personal risk factors for oral cancer (e.g., smoking, previous history of the disease) and any concerns you have about your oral health.
It’s critical to understand that catching oral cancer early offers the best chance at curing it. Be diligent about scheduling and attending regular visits with Dr. Porter so he can keep an eye out for potential signs of a problem.