What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer Prevention, Treatments & More
As the name suggests, oral cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. In general, this type of cancer can be detected and treated early, which could potentially result in fewer treatment-related health problems and an increase in survival rates. Still, this year alone an estimated 54,0000 new cases will be diagnosed. To help you understand the risks and know the symptoms, we’ve created this blog to cover the basics of oral cancer awareness.
The Different Types of Oral Cancers
Since oral cancer is categorized as cancer that develops in the mouth or throat, it’s no surprise that the types of oral cancer include cancer of the:
- Inner lining of the cheek
- Floor of the mouth & more
To be more specific, squamous cell carcinomas make up more than 90 percent of cancers that occur in the oral cavity. This usually causes the throat and mouth to become lined with squamous cells, which are flat and appear similar to fish scales on a microscopic level.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
It’s no secret that the biggest risk factor for developing oral cancer is tobacco use. People who use chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars or other tobacco products in addition to frequent large alcohol consumption have an especially high risk. Even if you are not a smoker, you can still be at risk. In recent years oral cancer has been occurring more frequently in nonsmoking people due to HPV16, the virus commonly associated with cervical cancer.
HPV16 (human papillomavirus 16) is a sexually transmitted virus that is related to increasing incidences of oropharyngeal cancer. This certain type of cancer most commonly involves lymphoid tissue occurring in the tonsils or the base of the tongue. The good news is that approximately 99 percent of people who develop an HPV oral infection will clear the virus on their own. Though, for the remaining 1 percent of individuals whose immune system will not clear the virus, HPV can lay dormant for decades before potentially causing cancer.
Oral Cancer Symptoms & Signs
Just because one type of cancer occurs more frequently or that one risk factor is more prevalent than others, it doesn’t mean that cancer is exactly routine. Symptoms and treatment can vastly differ from patient to patient. This is why it’s important to know the various signs and symptoms associated with oral cancer.
Be aware of the following signs:
- Sores on your lip or mouth that won’t seem to heal
- White, red and white, or red patches on the gums, lips, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
- A lump or thickening in the inside the mouth
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Persistent tongue and/or jaw pain
- A neck mass
- Earaches that won’t go away
- Persistent lower lip, face, neck, or chin numbness or pain
Please keep in mind that some of these symptoms can be associated with other conditions. Although, if you notice that any of these symptoms persist or recur over time, it may be wise to schedule a checkup with your dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
Diagnosis: Early Detection Is Extremely Important To Beating Oral Cancer
Unfortunately, many oral cancers are most often discovered only after they’ve spread to the lymph nodes; cancer that spreads to lymph nodes results in a higher risk that cancer might come back after surgery. At an oral cancer examination, your dentist, doctor or ENT specialist will perform an up close exam of the roof and floor of your mouth, the back of your throat, tongue, and cheeks, and the lymph nodes in your neck. If any suspicious lumps, bumps, or growths are found, your doctor will perform either a brush or tissue biopsy to get a microscopic look at any problem areas to determine if cancerous cells are present.
Your oral health professional may deem the use of an X-Ray, endoscopy, CT, PET or MRI scan necessary to get an in-depth, accurate look at your body. Physical exams, scans and tests may seem intimidating, but these procedures best allow your doctor to identify cancer, which in turn means potentially better treatment results for you.
Tools To Help Self Screen For Oral Cancer
Scheduling an appointment with an oral health professional is the best way to detect oral cancer. With the help of Check Your Mouth™, though, you can do a self discovery with just a few tools in 5 to 10 minutes in the comfort of your home.
Awareness Is Key, Getting Checked Is Critical
April may be oral cancer awareness month, but maintaining your oral health and detecting oral cancer goes beyond one month of the year. As we’ve said before, early detection is of great importance. Now that you have some resources for oral cancer symptoms and detection, it’s up to you to keep on top of your health! Get your biannual dental checkups, visit your doctor when necessary and continue to be aware of your general health.
Have additional questions about Oral Cancer? Need to schedule your dental appointment? Get in touch with a professional at any of our offices and we can help you out directly!