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Posted on: November 21, 2022
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, includes cancers of the oral cavity. It may develop on the lips, gums, any tissues lining the mouth, the tongue and the back of the throat. It accounts for about three percent of all the new cancers diagnosed annually in this country. Every year, 54,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year in the U.s, according to the American Cancer Society. One person every hour dies from the disease every day in the United States.
Mouth cancer is easier to treat when it’s discovered early. If it isn’t, it can disfigure or be deadly. We have Mouth Cancer Action Month to stress the importance of screenings during dental exams to catch the cancer early. Screenings are painless and not invasive. They take about five minutes. It’s essential everyone knows the early signs, so they can request a screening between routine checkups to check out any abnormalities. Mouth Cancer Action Month also stresses the importance of understanding the signs and risk factors to help decrease the percentage of deaths attributed to the disease.
Celebrate Oral Cancer Awareness Month with a routine dental checkup with our dentist in New Haven that includes a screening.
What are the Signs of Oral Cancer?
These are the signs of oral cancer your dentist will look for during a screening. He or she will also ask you about any symptoms you’re experiencing.
1. Sores in the mouth or on the lips that don’t heal in two or three weeks
2. Thick red or white patches in your mouth
3. Lumps in your mouth or neck
4. Difficulty swallowing
5. Constantly feeling that something is caught in your throat
6. Your tongue feels numb
7. Dentures fitting differently
8. Unexplained bleeding from the mouth
9. Earaches in both ears
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, please call our dental office.
Who is Most Likely to Get Mouth Cancer?
Older men over age 55 are the most likely to get oral cancer. This is probably because more men than women use tobacco and drink alcohol excessively. Oral cancer is the ninth most common cancer men develop.
Tobacco use, especially smokeless tobacco, is the major cause of oral cancer. There is no safe form of tobacco use. Pipe smokers are especially at risk for lip cancer where the pipe touches them. Chewing tobacco or snuff also contains harmful chemicals. Vaping isn’t safe either. Come electronic cigarettes have even more cancer-causing agents, like formaldehyde, than traditional cigarettes.
When combined with alcohol, it is even more of a risk factor. Alcohol will irritate your mouth, allowing cancer-causing agents to reach cells in your mouth more easily.
Younger people are starting to get mouth cancer because of the human papillomavirus (HPV) link. Exposure to the HPV-16 virus if the fastest growing risk factor for oral cancer. It commonly affects the base of the tongue, the back of the throat and tonsils.
There are other things that increase a person’s risk of oral cancer. Ultraviolet radiation, especially at a young age, can increase a person’s risk of developing lip cancer. Having a family history of oral cancer is also a risk factor.
The American Cancer Society suggests that poor oral health may play a part in developing oral cancer. People who have poor oral health may see their dentist less often, reducing their chances of having mouth cancer caught early. People who wear dentures and don’t have them checked regularly for a proper fit may find tobacco and alcohol particles trapped under them/
How is Mouth Cancer Diagnosed?
Early detection is essential since oral cancer treatments are far more effective if the cancer is in an early stage and hasn’t spread. Our dentists in New Haven do oral cancer screenings as part of regular dental exams. The screenings are quick and simply involve your dentist visually examining your entire oral cavity and feeling for lumps or unusual textures. If anything appears abnormal, the dentist will recommend a biopsy or similar diagnostic test.
During screenings, dentists will look at your;
- The roof of the mouth
- The floor of the mouth
- The tongue, both top and bottom
Dentists also feel for any unusual thickening of the cheeks and lumps.
What Treatments are Available for Mouth Cancer?
Treatment for mouth cancer varies among individuals. It depends on your cancer’s location, the stage it is in, your general health and the choices you make. Most people have a team of individuals treating them with one person coordinating the care plan.
Oral cancer is divided into four stages, from I to IV. The higher the stage, the more the cancer has spread. Although everyone has a customized treatment plan, treatments for certain stages tend to be similar.
There are multiple treatments available, including surgery to remove the cancer cells, radiation and chemotherapy and medications that target cancer cells. Treatment may also include rehabilitative options, like reconstructive surgery, if necessary.
Some people fear the effects of oral cancer treatment are worse than the cancer itself, although treatment may not be easy, it’s usually better than letting the cancer grow unchecked. This can lead to worsening symptoms and could be fatal. Talk to your team about your concerns so you can make an informed decision.
How Can I Avoid Oral Cancer?
The best thing you can do to avoid mouth cancer is to stop using tobacco. Your dentist can help you with smoking cessation tips. it is never too late to quit.
If you drink in excess, quit this too. If you’re a man, excessive drinking is more than two drinks a day. For women, the limit is one a day.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also make a difference. The antioxidants in fruit and vegetables can help prevent a variety of cancers.
You can help prevent lip cancer by protecting your lips from sun exposure. Your lower lip is especially vulnerable. Wear a lip balm containing a sunscreen if you venture out in the sun or go in a tanning bed.
Learn what to look for between regular dental exams and contact your dentist if you notice anything unusual in your mouth. Make sure you have a checkup and screening as your dentist recommends. It’s the best way to spot any issues early. HPV does not usually cause any symptoms and you may never know you have it, therefore screenings are especially important for people who don’t smoke and drink.
Keep your risk of developing oral cancer low by following these tips. Call today to schedule your appointment with our dentist in New Haven today?