Stick out your tongue.
No really stick out your tongue.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. Do you ever wonder why our doctors ask you to stick out your tongue during your check-up? By now most of you are aware that we are performing an oral cancer screening as part of your routine exam at every 6-month cleaning.
In a painless, 1-2 minute oral cancer screening, most of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can be seen with the naked eye or felt with the fingers. Suspect tissues can be easily biopsied for a definitive diagnosis. Unlike most other cancer detection exams, the screening for oral cancer does not require any special equipment, pain, high cost, or invasive tests. Moving your tongue out of the mouth and from side to side allows our doctors to properly view hard to see areas. Along with the “tongue grab” our doctors do a complete oral, lip, neck and lymph node exam at the end of each cleaning appointment.
These screenings are more important now than ever because oral cancer is on the rise. There are two distinct pathways by which most people come to oral cancer. One is through the use of tobacco and alcohol, a long-term historic problem and cause, and the other is through the exposure to the HPV-16 virus, which is quickly becoming a leading cause of oral cancers in the U.S
Oral cancer can often be caught early, even as a pre-cancer. With early detection, survival rates are high and the side effects from treatment are at their lowest. Like other screenings you engage in such as cervical, skin, prostate, colon and breast examinations, oral cancer screenings are an effective means of finding cancer at its early, highly curable stages. Make them part of your annual health check-ups.