The goal of an oral cancer screening, which is done in the dental chair, is to identify signs of precancerous conditions in the head, neck, and mouth. When detected early, lesions can be biopsied, removed easily, and even cured. Dentists and hygienists may palpate the neck area looking for “lumps and bumps” and any tender areas that arise when pressure is applied. Abnormal coloration, such as red, white, or a combination of both would be documented and rechecked at a later date for changes. Sores that do not heal within a few weeks should be examined further.
Risk factors for oral cancer include heavy alcohol use, tobacco use (smoke or smokeless) and the HPV virus. Skin cancer can also be detected by dental professionals with close examination of the lips and cheeks. A referral to an oral surgeon would be given so it can be properly diagnosed with a biopsy. If an area becomes a concern for you, have it checked at your next appointment, by either your dentist or medical doctor.