Oral cancer is an uncommon disease but can be lethal nonetheless. Over 49,700 people will be diagnosed this year with over 9,700 deaths. Getting screened for oral cancer is a simple process that can happen at your dentist office and is well worth the effort.
What age should you start getting screened for oral cancer? The numbers change depending on your risk. Here’s what you need to know when getting started with oral cancer screenings.
Screenings Start at Age 18
If you’re an adult who doesn’t use tobacco and has no symptoms, your oral cancer screenings should happen annually starting at age 18. At this age, getting an oral cancer screening during your dental checkup is the easiest way to do it. When you go for a professional cleaning, your dentist can examine your mouth for any unusual signs.
You should also speak with your dentist about any signs you see or symptoms you experience. Oral cancer signs include a sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal, vague persistent pain in the mouth, white or red patches on your tongue, mouth lining, or gums, numbness, or a sore throat that doesn’t get better.
Are You a Tobacco User?
If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, your oral cancer screenings should start at the age that you began using tobacco. This is because 80% of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer use some form of tobacco. It majorly increases your risk for oral cancer. If you use tobacco in any form, your dentist will want to screen you regularly to ensure you don’t have oral cancer.
You can also talk with your dentist about getting help for quitting tobacco products. 50% of tobacco users will eventually die or incur a disability as a result of their use. There is help to quit and the benefits are huge: lower risk for all types of cancers, including oral cancer! Your mouth and body will also be healthier.
What the Screening Entails
Oral cancer screenings are non-invasive and pain-free. Your dentist simply inspects your mouth for any signs of oral cancer and asks you questions about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Since oral cancer includes cancers of the neck, throat, tongue, and lips, your dentist will do his or her best to inspect these parts to ensure all looks normal.
Annual screenings are recommended for adults over the age of 18, so this procedure will only happen once a year unless you have symptoms or you’re a tobacco user. If you use tobacco, your dentist will likely want to perform the screening more often, perhaps at your checkup every six months.
When it comes to oral cancer, getting a screening in non-invasive and can happen at your local dentist’s office. Many times, screenings are free and don’t require any special procedures. If you have symptoms of oral cancer or use tobacco, visit your dentist to discuss getting a regular screening schedule set up. If you’re an adult, once per year should do it. Catching oral cancer early can improve your chances of a successful treatment!