AETC   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > Annual exams crucial for early detection of oral cancer
Previous ImageNext Image
Annual exams crucial for early detection of oral cancer
U.S. Air Force Capt. Riley Adams, a general dentist with the 59th Dental Squadron, examines Senior Airman Sherree Skeens’ teeth during her annual dental check-up Oct. 31 at the Dunn Dental Clinic on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Adams was looking for inflamed lymph nodes, tissue abnormalities or any pigmentation or discoloration, which may signal oral cancers. Skeens is a dental assist assigned to the 59th DS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)
Download HiRes
Annual exams crucial for early detection of oral cancer

Posted 11/13/2013   Updated 11/13/2013 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Daniel Chartrand
Dunn Dental Clinic

11/13/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Annual exams at a dental clinic begin with an oral cancer screening. Unbeknownst to many, the dentist is the first line of defense when it comes to early detection of oral cancer.

This is important given that mortality rates associated with oral cancer significantly decrease with early detection. According to Detecting Oral Cancer: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, the five-year survival rate for localized disease is 82 percent, compared to 28 percent for those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

So, who is at a greater risk of getting oral cancer? There are several risk factors, which increase one's risk. According to the Cancer Treatment Center of America, 80 percent of people with oral cancer use some form of tobacco. Furthermore, 70 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers as well. Interestingly, studies have shown that tobacco and alcohol, when combined, have a synergistic effect, which greatly increases the risk of getting mouth and throat cancer.

The incidence of oral cancer also increases with age. Statistics show that males are twice as likely to have oral cancer as females.

Additionally, sun exposure also increases the risk. It is essential to protect the lips and skin from the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Unfortunately, the lips are actually a common, but often overlooked, site for cancer.

What does an oral cancer screening involve? The screening involves two components: an extraoral and an intraoral examination.

The extraoral exam begins with an assessment of the face. The dentist will begin by looking for asymmetries in the face, as well as any unusual growths. The dentist will then feel both sides of the neck for any enlarged lymph nodes or unusual growths in the head and neck area. Finally, the jaw joint will be evaluated by having the patient open and close.

After the extraoral examination is complete, the dentist will then examine the soft tissues. The most common locations for oral cancer are the lips, sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth, which is underneath the tongue, the gums, and the roof of the mouth. The intraoral exam generally starts with a seven-step systematic assessment. This includes checking the outside of the lips, the inside of the lips, the inside of the cheeks, the gums adjacent to the teeth, the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and the roof of the mouth.

All patients are encouraged to perform this same type of examination on their own. By using a mirror, patients can look for soft tissue changes that do not look like surrounding tissue. It is important to note white or red lesions, mixed white/red lesions, and blue- or black-colored lesions. They should be evaluated by a dentist.

Other signs and symptoms to be aware of include: a thickening in the oral hard or soft tissues, soreness or the feeling of a lump in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, hoarseness, numbness of the tongue or jaw, or swelling of the jaw. If there are any questions or concerns about any tissues changes in your mouth, contact your general dentist for further evaluation.

No comments yet.  
Add a comment

 Inside AETC

ima cornerSearch

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act