Oral cancer is one of the ten most common cancers in the world, and it is particularly common in men who are over 40 years old. While it can be easily treated if caught in the early stages, it is too often not diagnosed until it has already spread to another part of the body. Consequently, of the nearly 50,000 Americans diagnosed with oral cancer every year, only 57 percent will still be alive five years later. As such, the importance of getting an oral cancer screening cannot be overstated. Getting regular screenings at our office could save your life.
What are the Symptoms?
One of the most insidious aspects of oral cancer is that the early stages are typically painless, and the patient does not notice that anything is wrong. Oral cancer can develop anywhere in the mouth, but it is most common on the tongue, the lower lip or the roof of the mouth. Symptoms of oral cancer can include the following:
• A sore or ulcer that doesn’t heal
• Velvety red or white patches that appear on the tongue, gums or lining of the mouth
• Abnormal numbness, pain and/or bleeding
• Trouble chewing or swallowing and/or pain when doing so
• A mass or lump that can be felt in the mouth or throat or on the lip
• A persistent sore throat and/or a feeling that something is stuck in the throat
• Persistent hoarseness or other changes in the voice
• Pain in the ear
• Swollen jaw
What Does an Oral Cancer Screening Involve?
During an oral cancer screening, the inside of the patient’s mouth is examined for sores or white or red patches. The dentist will feel for lumps or other abnormalities. If anything is found, a tissue biopsy will most likely be taken and sent to a lab for a diagnosis.
Who is Most Likely to Develop Oral Cancer?
Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer. People who smoke cigars, pipes or cigarettes are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than are non-smokers. Using smokeless tobacco is even worse. People who use chewing tobacco or snuff are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than are people who do not.
Heavy consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of developing oral cancer. Heavy drinkers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than are people who abstain from alcohol.
Other risk factories of oral cancer include:
• Family history
• Exposure to certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
• Lots of exposure to the sun, especially while young
Schedule a Screening Today
If it has been a while since you’ve had an oral cancer screening, we invite you to schedule one at Cascades Center for Dental Health in Sterling. Again, this simple appointment could save your life. Contact us today to schedule a screening!