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dentist giving oral cancer screening

Facts About Oral Cancer

dentist giving oral cancer screening

Oral cancer awareness is extremely important. About 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year. After five years, only 57% of them will still be alive. Early detection saves lives, as the survival rate is higher in people who are diagnosed when the cancer is in its earliest stages. Dentists routinely screen for it during exams and dental hygienists also look for signs during teeth cleanings. If you don’t see a dentist regularly, you may notice none of the signs of the disease. Mouth Cancer Action Month hopes to get the word out about the symptoms and let you know when you should see a dentist between your normal checkups.

Contact our dental office in Peoria today to schedule an exam with a screening.

What are the Typical Signs of Oral Cancer?

Typically, your dentist is the first person to spot the signs of oral cancer. You may notice symptoms, which are often easily attributed to other medical problems. These signs and symptoms include:

  • A sore in your mouth that does not heal in several weeks
  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • Lumps in your mouth or throat
  • Thickening of the lining of the cheeks
  • Hoarseness or feeling like there is something caught in your throat
  • A sore throat that won’t go away
  • Pain or mouth bleeding
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes

See your dentist in Peoria if you notice any of these signs or symptoms. Some of these symptoms can result from other, unrelated medical issues. Remember the motto of Mouth Cancer Action Month; “If in doubt, get checked out.“

What are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

You can’t entirely prevent oral cancer, but quitting tobacco use will go a long way to reducing your risk. Individuals who smoke are six times more likely than non-smokers to get oral cancer. What’s worse, people who use chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop mouth cancer. Quitting right now reduces your risk of mouth cancer, as well as your risk of heart disease and lung cancer. It isn’t easy, but your dentist can help you with suggestions for smoking cessation programs.

Heavy drinking also is a risk factor, especially when combined with tobacco use. Heavy alcohol use (more than 21 drinks a week) is the second major cause of mouth cancer. Alcohol can dry out mouth tissues, making it easier for tobacco carcinogens to penetrate the tissue. It can also lower a person’s ability to use antioxidants to fight cancer.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) infection also increases a person’s risk of developing mouth or throat cancer, especially in smokers. Some vaccines can help lower your risk.

Up to 25% of people who develop oral cancer don’t have any known risk factors. Therefore, regular screenings are so important. If you are an adult, you should have a screening at least every three years, if you don’t smoke or drink. If you are older than age 40, you should have a screening at least once a year.

How is Mouth Cancer Diagnosed?

Most oral cancers are caught early by dentists during routine exams or by dental hygienists who spot abnormalities and alert the dentist. People who perform self-exams also catch some, but the signs are subtle. If you have risk factors, dentists recommend you do a self exam every month. If an abnormal area is found, your dentist may do a brush biopsy or refer you to a specialist for another type of test.

What are the Typical Oral Cancer Treatments?

Your treatment plan depends on a variety of factors, including the exact location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and your age and general health. Treatment for mouth cancer can include surgery, targeted therapies, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. A team of specialists will present you with the best options in your specific case. The team may include oral surgeons. oncologists, radiation oncologists, dentists and more.

Mouth cancer is staged with Roman numerals I through IV. At stage I, the cancer has not spread and is easier to treat. At stage IV, the cancer could have spread throughout the head or neck. The stage is important for determining your treatment.

Remember, treatment is always more successful when oral cancer is detected early in an early stage. Schedule your appointment with a dentist in Peoria today.

Is it Possible To Avoid Developing Mouth Cancer?

There’s no 100% guarantee that you will never develop oral cancer as it occurs in people with no known risk factors. Nevertheless, you can greatly reduce your risk. Many studies are ongoing to identify other risk factors.

The best thing you can do is quit using all forms of tobacco, or never start. If you drink alcohol in excess and smoke, it increases your risk even more. Avoid lip cancer by using a lip balm with sunscreen if you spend a lot of time outdoors. See your dentist regularly for a screening which could show precancerous changes.

Please contact our dental office in Peoria today for an appointment.

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