According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, 53,260 people will get oral cancer in the oral cavity or oropharyngeal area. An estimated 10,750 will die of these types of cancers. Hundreds of cases are being identified in the United States every day, and one person dies from it each hour. A simple intraoral examination for early identification of oral cancer builds patient confidence in you as well as the practice.
Oral cancer screening is one of the most important protocols to provide as part of a patient’s overall assessment. Dental clinicians should perform an intraoral exam on every patient, no matter the circumstances. For me, it would be terrifying to know that a patient in my care had oral cancer that I failed to detect because I was short on time.
While time spent in the operatory with any patient is limited, conducting an assessment to identify possible cancerous lesions of the oral cavity is an important aspect of care that should not be overlooked. It is vital to recognize abnormalities of the hard and soft tissue in the oral cavity to identify oral cancer because it could prevent further tissue and/or bone destruction and could save a life due to early detection.
One type of head and neck cancer is cancer of the hard palate that starts with cells that grow out of control to form lesions and/or tumors, and half of all hard palate cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. A personal experience of why it is important to perform this oral cancer screening is when a patient, who I saw for the first time, came in for a routine periodontal maintenance appointment. I noticed some discoloration of the hard palate. I proceeded to perform periodontal probing and noticed mobility on multiple teeth while fulcruming on adjacent teeth.
After seeing the hard palate move, I brought it to the dentist’s attention, took photographs and radiographs, and reached out to other professionals to gain a better perspective on what steps needed to be taken. Unfortunately, this patient lost half of the maxilla. Early identification of this lesion led to less destruction and reduced the potential of more negative outcomes based on a simple 5-minute assessment.
Only 25% of dental professionals perform this essential exam. Patients are looking to you for your expertise and your ability to provide qualitative care. Know what to look for and build the trust of your patients. I applaud all the dental professionals out there that consistently perform the oral cancer screening on all their patients to provide the utmost quality of care.
Focusing on the patient and what is needed will continue to build confidence in the importance of dental health assessments. A simple oral cancer screening for early diagnosis of oral cancer builds patient confidence in you and the practice.
To learn more about the importance of oral cancer screening, check out these episodes at A Tale of Two Hygienists:
221 Student Focused Presents: HPV and the link to Oropharyngeal Cancers
CE Link (expires 6/30/21)
196 Breast Cancer Survivors Roundtable with Kris Potts and Mary Jensen
CE Link (expires 6/30/21)
112 Eva Grayzel – Storyteller and Oral Cancer Screening Expert! (course has expired)
95 Kris Potts RDH, BS, FAADH Talks PRE-habilitation and Cancer! (course has expired)
TIPisode with Tom Viola (Osteoporosis & osteonecrosis)