The process for diagnosing oral cancer sometimes begins at your dentist's office during a follow-up visit or full dental examination. First your dentist will ask you to list your symptoms. They'll then review your medical history (previous cancer diagnoses, weight loss, etc.), your family's medical history (head and neck cancer or other forms of cancer among members of your family) as well as any risk factors (smoking, use of alcohol or drugs, exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation, presence of human papillomavirus, etc.).
Finally, the dentist will perform the oral exam itself. This exam is used to detect observable signs of oral cancer. The dentist will check for asymmetry in your face and smile. They’ll carefully examine your mouth and feel the areas of soft tissue like the cheeks and lips to check for masses, lesions or swelling. They’ll also feel the floor of your mouth and tongue and the roof of your mouth. Your dentist will then observe your tongue's movement and check your swallowing while carefully examining your salivary glands.
If the dentist notices anything suspicious, they may order a biopsy. In this case, they'll extract a tissue sample for laboratory analysis. The sample will be sent to a hospital pathology department to detect the presence of suspicious cellular changes. Your dentist will refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who will proceed with a differential diagnosis with the help of additional tests and examinations, like endoscopy, a swallowing evaluation, X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans or an MRI. At this stage, it's extremely important to rule out any other conditions and health problems whose signs and symptoms may be similar to those of oral cancer. A panoramic X-ray of the mouth is an indispensable method for evaluating whether cancer has spread to the jaw.
The earlier oral cancer is diagnosed, the more effective the treatments are and the higher the chance of a full recovery. At Centre dentaire Parisloft, all full dental examinations and follow-up visits include this simple yet vital assessment. Why do without?