Oral cancer is a serious medical condition as it can easily spread to other areas of the body. Oral cancer isn’t just a concern for tobacco users. There are many different reasons why oral cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. Large amounts of sun exposure, which is obviously quite common in Arizona, can cause oral cancer. Oral injuries, immune deficiency and human papillomavirus (HPV) also increase a person’s chances of developing oral cancer.

While oral cancer is a serious medical concern, a quick examination and screening can often find the cancer in its early stages when it is easier to manage. In fact, a screening may find lesions that have not yet become cancerous. A basic oral cancer screening includes a visual exam of all the tissue of the mouth under a bright light. Oral cancers often appear as white or red patches or as sores. A screening will also include a dentist or other dental professional feeling the inside of the mouth for knots, soft spots or other abnormalities in the mouth’s tissue.

In some cases, a person may be give a special dye that can be swished around inside the mouth. If cancerous cells are present, the cells will soak up the dye making the cells easier to identify. When a dental professional finds a questionable area, the area may be noted and then examined at a later time. When the area is reexamined, it will be looked at to determine whether or not the questionable area has gone away or changed in appearance. If an area is believed to be cancerous, the area may be scraped to obtain cells that can be sent for further examination. A small biopsy may also be needed to confirm the existence of cancerous cells.

From a patient’s point of view, an oral cancer screening is a simple procedure. In most cases, the screening can be completed in conjunction with a routine cleaning or other dental service. If found early, small cancerous areas in the mouth can often be successfully removed without any long-term effects.

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