Oral Cancer Exam

According to research conducted by the American Cancer society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year.  More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient.  The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable.  This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important.  Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma.  The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma.  This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and mouth tissues.

There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
  • Gums
  • Face

Reasons for oral cancer examinations

It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.  Your dentist can provide literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking cessation.

When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective.  Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible.  During the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.

The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:

  • Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.

  • Leukoplakia – This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.

  • Lumps – Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathological problems.

Oral cancer exams, diagnosis and treatment

The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process.  During the visual part of the examination, the dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps.  Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks.  The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.

If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan.  In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed.  The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion.

Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken.  Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats.  Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

During bi-annual check-ups, the dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.

If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please ask your dentist or dental hygienist.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

I've had the privilege of going to Dr. Howard since young (decades). Now my entire family has chosen Dr. Howard and Dr. Alan Igasaki as our dentists. Both are calm, soothing, gentle and amazing dentists. Dr. Alan also specializes in periodontics which helped the extensive gum work we had to do over the years. The entire staff is super friendly and fun. There wasn't one visit I didn't leave laughing or encouraged by some one on the staff.

The doctors work well together and often seek each other's opinion. I appreciate that they're always educating themselves and using the latest technology. Dr. Alan used the laser on my son's gum procedure with no bleeding and minimal pain. They also allow you to bring your own music in and can play movies on a special eyeglass video screen. We often didn't want to leave since the "movie wasn't over." I get pretty anxious with any dental work. I watched a relaxing movie about Hawaii and the ocean. Both doctors are soothing and often talk to you a long time previous to treatment. It helps a lot. They're gentle also and will ask you for feedback if there's pain or discomfort. Very empathetic doctors as well as being brilliant clinically is rare. Highly recommended!!!

M D.

I cannot believe I am giving ANY dentist that I have personally seen any stars. But I must say Dr. Howard Igaskai, deserves every single one of them. I am not an easy person to get into a dental office let alone a dental chair! My fear of dentist started as a child & never went away. Dr. Howard aka Papa Howard, knew of my anxiety & went as far as unbuttoning his top collar & removing his coat just to make me feel at ease. I honestly have major trust issues w/dentist. I have horrible teeth due to the lack of dental care. I need a lot of work & it took a lot for me to even make this appointment. With that being said Dr. Howard took his time to explain & examine everything. I have to admit I didn't trust him from the get go & had a stink face but as the appointment went on he made me feel comfortable enough to make me want to return to his office. Yes, you read that right. I will go BACK....WILLINGLY! I'm still afraid & nervous as heck but from the front desk ladies, to the dental assistants & Dr. Howard....thank you! Thank you for NOT giving up on me. Thank you for making me feel comfortable enough to want to return. I'll see you again (still anxious) but I will be there.

Diana A.

I am SO honored to be able to rate and provide information on my dentist's office. In a world where people freak out about seeing the dentist, I LOVE mine! The front staff is great (very welcoming and informative), Elsie is my favorite hygienist (very inviting and great to talk to - even with tools in your mouth!), and Dr. Howard is da bomb! This is the one doctor I see religiously!

My parents were smart in taking me with them to the dentist (they are patients here, as well) when I was very young. I don't recall what age I was when Dr. Howard first started treating me, but I don't ever recall not knowing or feeling comfortable with him. And, now that I'm old, he still asks about my migraines, my family, and is just very pleasant to speak with any time I do.

I wanted to whiten my teeth and he told me no - that mine are naturally bright. He could have done it anyway, but that's just one way he is always looking out for me.

God willing, I will NEVER not have the wonderful folks here as my dental professionals! I always get compliments on my teeth!

Anika C.

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Contact Us.We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form.

Contact Us

We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.
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