Oral Cancer Screenings
Oral Cancer Screenings in Northern Virginia
Get your oral cancer screening done at your next dental visit! It’s painless and quick.
Why Oral Cancer Screening is needed
The goal of oral cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer or pre-cancerous lesions that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage. Any cancer that is detected at an early stage is easy to remove or treat and have better chances of cure.
Oral cancer is commonly associated with alcohol consumption and tobacco products. However, recent studies have found other causes for oral cancer as well, such as HPV. An oral cancer screening uses technology to check any abnormal cells or lesions in the oral cavity. Any abnormality detected will indicate the need for more advanced screenings and tests.
We take a holistic approach to your dental care, which includes an oral cancer screening as a part of your regular exam. Like many kinds of cancer, oral cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
VELscope® oral cancer screening
VEL scope is a handheld scope to help visualize oral tissue abnormalities, including cancer and pre-cancer. Unlike other adjunctive devices used for oral examinations, the VEL scope does not require any dyes or prolonged testing procedures. In fact, a VEL scope exam can be performed during a routine hygiene exam in about two minutes.
How it works
The VELscope emits a harmless, bright blue light which is used to inspect the mouth and tongue for signs of oral cancer. The device is sensitive to abnormal tissue changes and the distinctive blue-spectrum light causes the soft tissue (oral mucosa) of the mouth to naturally fluoresce. Healthy tissues fluoresce in distinct patterns that may be visibly disrupted when tissue undergoes an abnormal change (which can occur in the oral mucosa for a multitude of reasons,) such as when associated with dysplasia or oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
- Tobacco Smoking
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- Gender (twice as common in men)
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Poor oral hygiene
- Oral HPV infection
Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms
The earliest signs of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be mistaken for other problems, such as a toothache or cold sore. If symptoms persist for several days or weeks, it is important to see your doctor so that, if oral cancer is present, it can be diagnosed as soon as possible. Many of these symptoms can be due to other, less serious problems or other cancers.
- Unusual lumps or bumps in the mouth, wart-like masses, mouth sores that do not heal
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Unusual nosebleeds or other bleeding from oral cavity
- Distortion of any of the senses, numbness in oral or facial regions
- Sore throat, hoarseness, ear pain
- Progressive swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, shifting of teeth
- Unexpected weight loss
Steps and factors to help prevent oral cancer:
- The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid all tobacco products and only drink alcohol in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
- Limit your exposure to the sun and always wear UV-A/B-blocking, sun-protective lotions on your skin as well as your lips.
- During your next dental appointment, ask your dentist to perform an oral cancer exam. Early detection of oral cancer can improve the chance of successful treatment.
Self-Examination thorough Oral Cancer Screening that can be taught to patients.
- Head and neck—look at your face and neck in a mirror. Normally, the left and right sides of the face have the same shape and are symmetrical. Look for any lumps, bumps, or swellings that are only on one side of your face.
- Face—examine the skin on your face for changes in color or size, sores, moles, or growths.
- Neck—press along the sides and front of the neck for tenderness or lumps.
- Lips—pull your lower lip down and look for sores or color changes. Then, use your thumb and forefinger to feel the lip for lumps, bumps, or changes in texture. Repeat this on your upper lip.
- Cheeks—examine your inner cheeks for red, white, or dark patches. Feel for lumps or bumps, looking for white or red areas that should not be there.
- Check the roof of your mouth for lumps and areas of softness on the hard palate, looking for white and red patches.
- Look at the floor of your mouth and the underside of your tongue for color changes, and then press your finger against the underside of your tongue to feel for any lumps or swellings.
- Extend your tongue as far as it can go, examining the sides and underside for white and red patches, and feel your tongue for lumps. Pull your tongue forward to look at both sides for any swellings or color changes. Examine the underside of the tongue by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
If you find anything out of the ordinary—particularly anything that does not heal or go away in two weeks, or that has recently changed, —discuss it with your oral health professional or physician.