Oral cancer is a devastating disease no matter where it is found in the body. What we find somewhat disheartening is that many people aren’t worried about oral cancer until they present with symptoms. Our goal during all twelve months of the year—is to do our part to educate our patients and help prevent oral cancer.
Oral cancer is an insidious, deadly disease. Oftentimes, it catches people by surprise, and by the time they recognize the signs, the cancer has already progressed. That’s why we encourage all of our patients to come into their Red Deer dentist office at least annually. Not only do we want to check for decay and gum disease, we want to do an oral cancer screening.
What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is not to be taken lightly. Not only can it cause damage to the tissues and structure of the mouth, face, head, and neck – it’s also a killer. In fact, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that one person dies from oral cancer every hour. That is a staggering statistic, particularly because oral cancer can be successfully treated if caught early.
In order to increase your awareness of this disease, here are some things you should know about it.
The Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer
• Any sort of swelling in the mouth should be evaluated. Cancer can cause the inside of the cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, roof of mouth, and back of the throat to swell.
• Some people have felt a lump in the back of their throat that would not go away.
• In addition to swelling, cancer can cause a feeling of tightness in the jaw joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth.
• Some patients that have been diagnosed with cancer have been diagnosed because they’ve had a chronic sore throat and cough.
• Any sort of numbness, pain, or discomfort in the mouth should be evaluated as soon as possible. It could be a nerve issue, decay, gum disease, or cancer.
• According to Colgate.com, some oral cancer patients were diagnosed because they started losing teeth even though they didn’t have gum disease or progressive decay.
• Another symptom: red, white, and speckled lesions or patches in the mouth.
The Causes of Oral Cancer
The causes of oral cancer are many and have a lot to do with lifestyle and habits. Of course, as with any type of cancer, genetics can play a role. If you have a family history of oral cancer, we recommend you visit our Red Deer family dentist office at least annually.
Other contributing factors include:
• Tobacco use: This includes chewing; the use of snuff; smoking cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe. And, according to an article in the Daily Mail, new studies have shown that vaping might contribute to oral cancer. E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals that can damage the tissues in the mouth and possibly lead to oral cancer.
• Overconsumption of alcohol: According to WebMD, those who drink in excess are six times as likely to develop oral cancer as light-to-moderate drinkers.
• Lots of exposure to the sun: UV rays can attack the sensitive skin of the lips.
• HPV: The human papilloma virus is a risk factor for some patients.
How Your Red Deer Dentist Can Help You Prevent Oral Cancer
Early detection is vital in order to prevent the progression and damage of oral cancer. The first step in early detection is seeing your dentist for a screening. What will happen at this appointment?
1. We will do a visual examination of your face, neck, and oral cavity. We will check for lesions and any discolorations of the soft tissues in your mouth.
2. We also do a palpation test. This is where we gently press your cheeks and lips between our fingers to feel for any lumps that may not have presented themselves yet visually.
3. If we do find any lesions, we will do a brush biopsy. Using a cotton swab, we gently brush the lesion to get a sample of the skin cells. Then, we send the sample to a special lab that evaluates the cells for cancer.
Doing this examination every year allows us to catch any issues in their early phase.
Oral Cancer Tests & Treatment Options
What happens if you’re diagnosed with oral cancer? Further testing with need to be done to evaluate which stage you’re in. We would refer you to your doctor or internist who will perform an endoscopy, take x-rays, and/or do a CT scan and MRI.
Once the stage has been determined, the next step is treatment. There are four different ways to treat oral cancer. They may be used individually or in conjunction.
• Radiation Therapy
• Drug Therapy
Of course, our ultimate goal is to prevent our patients from having to get to this point.
The Importance of Early Detection from a Red Deer Dentist
Oral cancer is a killer, but we have the ability to successfully prevent and fight it. By making some lifestyle adjustments and seeing your Red Deer dentist for an annual oral cancer screening, you can avoid being an oral cancer statistic. We hope that being more aware of the risk factors and knowing that you can do something about oral cancer will move you to come in to your Red Deer family dentist office soon.
Has it been a while since your last dental exam in Red Deer and oral cancer screening? Please contact us right away to schedule an appointment. Together, we can work to prevent decay, gum disease, and even oral cancer.