May 3, 2013 9:52 AM by Marissa Torres
Going to the dentist isn't just about getting your teeth cleaned. Dentists can often be the first ones to spot a cancerous growth inside the mouth, and possibly save your life.
"About 30% of Oral Cancers are on patients who typically might say I don't need that, because I don't drink and I don't smoke and I'm a very low risk patient."
For that reason, Dr. Fred Guerra says it's important to talk to your dentist about oral cancer screenings. The cancer - usually found in the mouth and neck region-is a fairly common condition that is treatable-but often ignored.
"Most of the time, an intraoral cancer is not noticeable or is invisible to a patient unless Its progressed to a form where there's a sore in the mouth, that's persistent and doesn't go away."
Since it's better to be safe, Dr. Guerra says he performs a few simple screenings for patients during their routine visits.
"We're palpating the nodes, neck, face, behind the ears, up in the temporal areas. See if they have any lumps, bumps, swelling."
And if Dr. Guerra feels like there is a need to take closer look...
"We also have some additional diagnostic tools called a Velscope, which allows us to illuminate the mouth, intraoral region, underneath the tongue, in the oral pharynx to see if someone has a cancerous or precancerous lesion.
About 42,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with Oral Cancer this year alone. And according to the CDC, this is the fifth year in a row in which there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence.
The biggest causes: use of tobacco and alcohol, and exposure to HPV.