According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 48,330 were diagnosed with either oral cavity cancer, otherwise known as just oral cancer, or oropharyngeal cancer. Additionally, around 9,570 died of the said cancers. Mind you, these estimates were from 2016, and the estimated number of deaths and new cases has been projected to only grow in 2017.
Fortunately, oral cancer can be prevented, and treatable, especially if caught very early on, which usually happens during a routine dental checkup at the dentist’s office.
Early Warning Signals, Signs and Symptoms
Mouth cancer can occur on the lips, tongue, throat and even the salivary glands, pharynx, larynx and sinuses. Because early detection is key to the successful treatment of oral cancer, it’s important that you take note of the following symptoms and visit your doctor or dentist immediately if they persist for at least two weeks:
- Sores, swellings, lumps, or thick patches found anywhere inside or around your mouth and/or throat
- Clusters of red or white lesions in and/or around your mouth or lips
- Uncomfortable feeling in your throat, as if there’s a lump or object stuck inside
- Swellings that make wearing dentures uncomfortable and/or painful
- Feeling of numbness, tenderness, or pain anywhere in your mouth or your tongue
- Pain in any one of your ears, but your hearing is unaffected
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or anything that involves moving your jaws or tongue
- Sudden loose teeth with no apparent cause
- Hoarseness or a sore throat that lasts for more than a week
Why Frequent Dental Checkups Are Important
According to the American Dental Association or ADA, in addition to checking your teeth and gums for oral disease, your dentist will also check your lips and face for any signs of oral cancer during a routine oral check-up. If the dentist deems it necessary, he or she may palpate your neck and jaw areas, as well as examine your tongue more closely. These dental checkups / oral cancer screenings should be done every six months to increase the chances of oral cancer being caught early on.
If the dentist finds any reason to suspect oral cancer, he or she will recommend a biopsy of the affected area. If the diagnosis is positive, surgery is usually recommended, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
While oral cancer survival rates hover around the high 80s (90% in the UK) if detected early enough, prevention is and will always be better than cure.
Practicing good oral hygiene at home to prevent tooth decay and gum disease can help lower your risk for gum disease. Making certain lifestyle choices and changes, such as limiting alcohol consumption, abstaining from smoking, eating right, and limiting your exposure to the sun, just to name a few, has the same effect.
Of course, it will help for you to take note of any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. Knowing where to look and what to look for increases the chances of identifying oral cancer early on and having it treated before it becomes a life-threatening condition.
Call Dr. Yankowskas today for an appointment to have an oral cancer screening at 978-649-7773. Visit the website to learn more about the practice at www.tyngsborocosmeticdentist.com.