Understanding the Need For Oral Cancer Screenings
Oral cancer is cancer that occurs on the lips (usually the lower lip), inside the mouth, on the back of the throat, the tonsils or salivary glands. It occurs more frequently in men than women, and most likely to strike people over 40. Smoking in combination with heavy alcohol use is a key risk factor.
Oral cancer Screening is looking for cancer before a p erson has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
If not detected early, oral cancer can require surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. It can also be fatal, with an overall five-year survival rate of approximately 50 percent.* Part of the reason for this poor prognosis is a failure to recognize the early symptoms, so detecting oral cancer early is the key to successful treatment.
You won't always be able to spot the earliest warning signs of oral cancer, which is why regular check-ups with both your dentist and physician are so important. Your dentist is trained to detect early warning signs of oral cancer. However, in addition to check-ups, you should see your dentist if you do notice any of the following:
- A sore on the lips, gums, or inside of your mouth that bleeds easily and doesn't heal
- A lump or thickening in the cheek that you can feel with your tongue
- Loss of feeling or numbness in any part of your mouth
- White or red patches on the gums, tongue or inside of mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing food
- Soreness or unexplained pain in your mouth
- feeling that something is caught in your throat with no known cause
- Swelling of the jaw causing dentures to fit poorly
- Change in voice
How Can You prevent Oral Cancer
If you don't chew or smoke tobacco — don't start. Tobacco use accounts for 80 to 90 percent of oral cancers.
Smoking — the link between smoking, lung cancer and heart disease is well established1. Smoking also affects your general health, making it harder to fight infections and recover from injuries or surgery. Among young adults, smoking can lead to stunted growth and other developmental difficulties. Many smokers find they can't smell or taste as well as before, and risk developing bad breath and stained teeth.
Your oral health is also at risk every time you light up. Smoking cigarettes, a pipe or a cigar greatly increases your chances of developing cancer of the larynx, mouth, throat and esophagus. Because so many people are not aware of or ignore early symptoms, oral cancer often spreads before it is detected.
Chewing Tobacco — chronic users of smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users.
It's best to avoid smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, chewing tobacco or dipping snuff. People who stop using tobacco, even after many years of use, greatly reduce their risk for oral cancer. Chronic and/or heavy use of alcohol also increases your risk of cancer, and alcohol combined with tobacco creates an especially high risk.
After a diagnosis has been made, a team of specialists (including an oral surgeon and dentist) develops a treatment plan to fit each patient's needs. Surgery is usually required, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. It's important to see a dentist who's familiar with the changes these therapies may cause in the mouth.
Each time you consume foods and drinks that contain sugars or starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack your teeth for 20 minutes or more. To reduce damage to your tooth enamel, limit the number or between meal snacks and drinks. And when you do snack, choose nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or fruit.
To discuss your oral cancer issues or to ask any other questions, please contact us immediately at 513-923-1215 or fill out the appointment request form to schedule now.