Oral cancer affects 291,108 Americans each year, with 45,780 new cases reported in 2015 alone (National Cancer Institute). As with any form of cancer, early detection is the best way to treat oral cancer and prevent it from spreading and metastasizing. Adults in Michigan and all other parts of the country are encouraged to get an oral cancer screen at least once a year to identify this issue before it advances to a terminal stage. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of oral cancer screenings so you can understand what this process can do for you.
What Oral Cancer Screenings Look For
Signs of oral cancer are noticeable long before the cancer gets out of hand. Dentists are trained to look for pre-malignant lesions in the mouth that could turn into oral cancer in 2-8 years. Not all forms of oral cancer are preceded by these lesions, but early detection is still a vital component to treating the cancer before it grows. Most oral cancer patients do not seek treatment until they have reached stages III and IV, when treatment options are minimal and often ineffective.
Different Types Of Oral Cancer Screenings In Michigan
There are two main types of oral cancer screenings available in Michigan: visual cancer screenings and light-based cancer screenings. During a visual screening, a dentist will examine your mouth to look for signs of oral cancer. In addition to that, your dentist may look into your mouth with a special light designed to point out issues that may not be visible to the naked eye. The light simply provides a more thorough overview of your mouth. A simple visual exam is often enough to identify signs of oral cancer, if they are present.
When Should I Get An Oral Cancer Screening?
We recommend that our patients get an oral cancer screening at least once a year, especially patients who are over the age of 55. The mortality rate for oral cancer increases significantly for patients 55 and older, with 26% of deaths occurring between the ages of 55 and 64. Males are at a higher risk for developing oral cancer than females, but all Michigan residents are encouraged to get screened regularly. Smokers in particular are at a high risk of developing oral cancer. If you smoke or have smoked before, you should talk to your dentist about the frequency of your oral cancer screenings.