What Are the Early Warning Signs of Oral Cancer?
Early Detection of Oral Cancer is Key
When you think of oral health problems, you probably think of cavities and root canals. But there are about 49,700 new cases of oral cancer each year in the United States, which is about three percent of all cancer diagnoses.
If this condition is caught early enough, they have a high chance of successful treatment. In fact, over half of those in the U.S. survive from oral cancer after five years. Dentists look for early signs of mouth cancer during regular checkup appointments, but it’s also important for you to recognize these warning signs.
Signs and Symptoms
Mouth cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including inside the cheeks, under the middle and front of the tongue, or on the tissue lining of the mouth or gum. Symptoms will vary, but anyone experiencing any of the following for more than two weeks should see a doctor:
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Sores, swellings, or lumps in or around your mouth or throat
- Numbness, pain or tenderness anywhere in your mouth, including your tongue
- Areas of red or white patches in your mouth or lips
- Trouble moving your jaw or tongue
- Sore throat that won’t go away
- Ear pain but no loss of hearing
The Causes and Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Doctors think that oral cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of a cell, stimulating abnormal growth and cell death. While it’s still unclear exactly what causes the initial mutation, there are certain lifestyle factors that increase your risk for oral cancer.
According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of those with oral cancer consume tobacco, and increased alcohol use is also considered a factor. Your risk also increases as you age, with most being diagnosed at 62 years old or older. A diet that lacks fruits and vegetables can make it easier to contract, and recently oral cancers have become associated with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV 16).
Treatment For Oral Cancer
As mentioned, early detection is key and lends itself to a high survival rate. During a routine checkup of your teeth and gums, your dentist will also visually check your lips and face for signs of oral cancer, as well as the top and underside of your tongue. These tests are quick and painless and should be done every six months.
If your dentist is suspicious of a cancer, treatment most often involves using a combination of therapies, such as giving radiation therapy and chemotherapy together. These treatments are most effective in the early stages, as it becomes more difficult to isolate and treat if it has spread to other areas.
Your best bet is to get regular checkups with your dentist, avoid tobacco and alcohol use, eat a balanced diet, and be aware of any changes in your mouth, lips, and throat. If you have any of the symptoms above or simply need your six-month checkup, contact Gole Dental in Hastings and Cascade, MI right away, our experts are standing by and are here to help!