Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings
Cancer can develop in the oral cavity unnoticed, often presenting no pain or noticeable symptoms until it progresses to advanced stages, but early detection of oral cancer can dramatically increase the effectiveness of treatment. Regular oral examinations can spot abnormalities or changes in your mouth that could indicate the presence of precancerous lesions or oral cancer itself.
How Often Should You Get an Oral Cancer Screening?
What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Major risk factors for oral cavity cancer include:
- using tobacco products (including smokeless tobacco products)
- heavy alcohol consumption
- prolonged sun exposure without sunscreen
- a history of oral HPV
Additional risk factors include being male, old age, and frequent UV light exposure.
Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer
While oral cancer may not present obvious symptoms in its earliest stages, there are some signs that may indicate early-stage cancer:
- suspicious lesions or sores on the gum tissue that don’t heal
- white or red patches in the mouth
- lumps or thickened areas in the mouth or throat
- difficulty swallowing or chewing
- persistent hoarseness or sore throat
- family history of cancer
- persistent bad breath along with any of the above symptoms
If you notice any of these signs of cancer, we urge you to schedule an appointment at our dental office for a comprehensive examination as soon as possible.
Oral Cancer Treatment Options
- Surgery: This is often the first step in treating oral cancer. The primary goal is to remove all cancerous cells, and sometimes nearby lymph nodes are removed as well, especially if you have neck cancer. For cancers that are detected early, surgical removal may be the only treatment needed.
- Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: This is a systemic treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used in conjunction with radiation therapy or when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Targeted Therapy: This newer form of treatment uses drugs that specifically target the changes in cancer cells that help them grow and spread, causing less harm to normal cells.