Cancer is always a difficult topic to read about. But it’s important to know the symptoms and monitor your health so that you can catch any potential problems early.
Since we focus on dental and oral care issues here, we’ll be looking at oral cancer. Please remember that the symptoms listed below can be caused by conditions other than cancer. Talk to a health care professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not attempt to diagnose yourself.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The most symptoms that can potentially indicate oral cancer include
An unexplained swelling, rough spot, crusty skin or skin that looks damaged on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth.
Furry-looking white, red, or white and red patches in the mouth
Persistent sores in the mouth or on lips that do not heal within two weeks.
Unexplained sores in the mouth that bleed easily and are very slow to heal
Numbness and pain in the mouth, face or neck
Difficulty swallowing, feeling that you have something stuck in your throat
Sudden difficulties in chewing or swallowing, and/or in easily moving the jaw or tongue
Long term sore throat, sudden change in your voice
A sudden change in how your teeth or dentures align
If you notice any of these symptoms speak to your dentist or other health care professional as soon as possible.
How Is Oral Cancer Diagnosed and Treated?
Medical experts suggest that you have your dentist conduct an oral cancer screening exam every 3 years for persons over age 20 and annually for those over age 40. The screening can be performed at your annual checkup. Your dentist will look for lumps or other changes in your mouth as well as on your neck, head, and face. He or she will also look for discoloration and sores, along with asking you about the existence of the other symptoms listed above.
Of course if you notice symptoms indicative of oral cancer between checkups, have your dentist or doctor examine you ASAP.
During an oral cancer exam your dentist may perform a painless oral brush biopsy test on a small piece of tissue in your mouth, or may recommend a scalpel biopsy if he or she spots anything that looks potentially problematic.
Oral cancer, like other cancers, is treated with surgery to remove the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women. Men who are over age 50 are in the highest risk group.
Smokers, along with people who drink alcohol to excess, are six times more likely than nonsmokers and non-drinkers to develop oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco users are also in a high risk group. More than 25% of all oral cancers do occur in people who don’t smoke and rarely drink alcohol so don’t ignore smyptons if you fall into the “safe” group.
A family history of cancer, and excessive sun exposure, also heighten your odds of developing an oral cancer.
How Can I Prevent Oral Cancer?
Don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess, and don’t use tobacco products. Use a good UV-A/B-blocking sun protective lotion or balm on your lips to protect them.
And see your dentist regularly. The early signs of oral cancer can be very difficult to spot on your own. Early detection is a strong factor in successful treatment.
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