Oral cancer affects over 40,000 people in the United States every year. Of those diagnosed, only about half of them survive past five years. This is because oral cancer is often detected late.
Therefore, spotting any signs of the condition and talking with your dentist is quite important.
WHAT IS ORAL CANCER?
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth. It can affect anywhere in your mouth, including your lips, tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth, gums or the entrance of the throat. There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer:
• Tobacco products, both smoking and chewing.
• Excessive alcohol use.
• A family history of oral cancer.
• HPV, a sexually transmitted disease.
SYMPTOMS YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR DENTIST ABOUT
During your regular dental visits, your dentist does a screening for oral cancer, even if you aren’t aware of it. But you only see your dentist about twice a year, so if you notice any of the following symptoms between visits, don’t wait until your next visit to address them:
• Sores in your mouth or on your lips that won’t heal.
• Red or white patches.
• Growths in your mouth.
• Loose teeth.
• Difficulty swallowing, chewing or talking.
• A change in your bite.
• A constant earache that just won’t go away.
• A lump in your neck.
• A numb feeling in your lower jaw or lip.
Talking with your dentist right away is step one. Once you’re at your dentist’s office, an actual diagnosis can take place. Your dentist will give you a thorough physical exam, checking the inside of your mouth as well as around it (including your neck and face). X-rays, CT scans, PET scans and/or MRI scans may also be done.
A brush biopsy will be done if any lesions are found, and the cells examined under a microscope. If cancer is found, treatment will begin right away.
Early detection is key to the prevention of, and survival from, oral cancer. If you have detected any abnormalities that are causing concern, contact our office right away.