The importance of oral cancer screenings for early detection and reduction of risk

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports most oral cancers (44%) are detected at the “regional” stage when the cancer has metastasized or spread to structures like nearby lymph nodes. The balance of cancerous lesions are found at their localized or early stage (before the cancer has spread) or, unfortunately, after the cancer has metastasized to distant organs such as the lungs. 

These tumors can be resolved promptly and successfully when detected at their earliest pre-cancerous or localized stages. The longer the cancer goes without being detected, the worse the prognosis. 

Screening is essential. Matthew Wallengren, DDS, gets Baltimore area patients into a healthy routine of evaluating for suspicious lumps, bumps, patches, and other abnormalities. Dr. Wallengren also partners with patients to reduce their risk factors for developing cancers of the oral cavity, mouth, oropharynx, or throat. The standard dental exam, screening, and check-up are generally scheduled every six months. However, if you have risk factors for oral and oropharyngeal cancers, Dr. Wallengren will want to check the condition of your teeth, gums, and mouth more regularly. These risks include:

  • Smoking and vaping 
  • Use of tobacco products such as “chew” 
  • Excessive, chronic alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet 
  • Excess sun exposure, tanning (for lip cancers)

It is also vital for you to tell Dr. Wallengren about any changes that have occurred since your last visit. For instance, functional problems such as difficulty swallowing, frequent hoarseness, sore throat, and issues with how restorations and oral appliances fit can all be indicative of troubling lesions. Dr. Wallengren takes your experiences and observations into account when screening. Also, what he cannot feel by touch or see with the naked eye can be detected with our use of state-of-the-art diagnostics. What we find upon screening may warrant a biopsy and further evaluation by a specialist. 

It is not an overstatement to say that oral cancer screening saves lives. We urge you to contact us with any concerning symptoms or changes as soon as possible. And, if it has been a while since your last dental visit, call without delay. The North Baltimore, MD office of Matthew Wallengren, DDS, can be reached at (410) 431-1868 or from the “contact” tab on this website.