Why I Care So Much About Screening for Oral Cancer
My Cancer Story
When you were a child, what was your biggest worry in life? For most of my friends, their worries were those typical of carefree, prepubescent boys. Who could burp the loudest was important. Who would sprout up to be the tallest over the next summer break was a point of debate. What were you going to be doing over summer break was a question we frequently asked.
I don’t remember a lot of the small things that happened in my life at age twelve. Burping and growing and summer plans just weren’t important to me that year because that was the year I lost my mother.
As you can imagine, the loss of my mother to cancer changed my world and my perspective. I would have given anything as a young boy to prevent or cure my mother’s cancer. And that thought and those feelings have stuck with me through the years.
Now, as a dentist, I have the knowledge, experience, technology, and equipment to help others do what I couldn’t for my mother. My desire to help others to avoid losing their loved one is why I strongly recommend cancer screenings to all of my patients.
Why is an oral and oropharyngeal cancer screening so important?
Oral and pharyngeal cancers are fast-growing.
Oral and pharyngeal cancers are hard for individuals to spot on their own. The symptoms often are mild in the initial stages of growth. It’s easy to dismiss a small sore or a patch of skin on your tongue that feels a little bit differently. How many of us really ever think, “Oh yeah, I bet this is cancer.” It’s not in our nature.
Being aware of the symptoms of cancer in the mouth and throat might just help you to take those early signs more seriously, though. What does cancer in the mouth or throat look like? A few symptoms include:
- White patches on the skin in the mouth or throat
- Red patches on the skin in the mouth or throat
- A mixture of both red and white patches
- Unexplained tenderness or pain in the mouth and throat
- Sores that stick around for more than a couple of weeks
Each one of those symptoms is something we could easily dismiss as nothing for several weeks until symptoms worsen. I urge you not to ignore any such symptoms, of course. Early detection of oral and pharyngeal cancer is incredibly important to someone’s chances of surviving. I’m happy to help you determine what is and isn’t something to be concerned about. I’m always going to take any of your concerns seriously and check if you have a spot you’re concerned about. Please don’t hesitate to make an appointment, even if I’ve checked three other spots for you in the last two months and they’ve all been normal.
Why is getting it checked right away so important?
Oral cancer screenings prevent deaths.
Did you know over 50,000 people were diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in 2017? For those individuals, the overall survival rate is 65 percent. For individuals who were diagnosed before the oral or oropharyngeal cancer spread to surrounding tissues or organs, the survival rate jumps up to 84 percent.
Early detection is key to preventing deaths. That’s why I take every concern seriously. So how do you detect these cancers early before the disease has started spreading? Can you detect cancer before it’s visible?
We use an old-fashioned, hands-on approach combined with the latest technology.
Think about all the tissue in and around your mouth and throat. Aside from your gums, tongue, and throat, you have tonsils, salivary glands, lymph nodes and more. I take a hands-on approach which is to palpate (gently press on) the tissue around your jaw and neck. I also take a look to see if anything looks swollen or enlarged. That will tell us if there are obvious signs of many different types of cancer.
Once I’ve completed the physical exam, either I or a member of my team can take it a step further to look for cancer that isn’t developed enough to be visible. We do this by using something called a VELscope®. The VELscope makes cancer screening so simple. With the wave of a little blue light, we can detect tissue abnormalities. That means we can spot cancer before it ever becomes visible.
What is the VELscope®?
The VELscope® is a device that allows us to screen for cancer. It’s noninvasive, causes no pain, and it only takes a minute. By allowing us to see abnormal tissue, we can catch cancer before it’s really considered cancer. The VELscope allows us to see any abnormal cells our blue light can reach. If any are spotted, we can investigate further.
A happy ending to your cancer story starts with early detection.
We are masters at avoiding things that make us think too much about our own mortality. Don’t let that stop you from saying yes to a cancer screening at your next appointment. Maybe you have a twelve-year-old little boy at home. I know without a doubt if you explained it all to him, he’d want you to say yes to a cancer screening at your next appointment.
Make your appointment for a cleaning and screening today.
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