Unless you’re a heavy drinker or smoker, you might not think much about oral cancer, but it can affect others as well. In fact, it has become the sixth most common type of cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, it has a high mortality rate with around 50 percent of oral cancer patients dying within five years of the initial diagnosis.
So what can you do about oral cancer? How can you make sure you’re not part of that morbid statistic? Understanding the signs and taking the right measures in your life can help you avoid it or at least discover it sooner rather than later. Keep reading to learn more!
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
To the untrained eye, cancerous cells in and around the mouth can be easily overlooked. Often, they show up as oral sores that won’t heal, red or white tissue, and areas where the tissue feels thicker. Some patients have difficulty swallowing or unexplained bumps or lumps, while others may experience numbness in their tongue, cheeks, chin, or lips. Should any of these symptoms come up, don’t ignore them! They could be early symptoms of developing oral cancer.
The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment
Most of the time, when the patient has finally recognized the strange symptoms and seeks further testing, the oral cancer has already metastasized or advanced. Once the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body, oral cancer becomes much harder to eradicate. When it’s identified and treated early, the odds of survival are much greater, which is why your oral cavity needs to be checked out on a regular basis.
How Oral Cancer Is Caught and Treated
Did you know that when you have a routine visit with the dentist, you are also getting an oral cancer screening? This means that a trained professional is looking closely for signs of this cancer every six months. This screening takes just a few minutes, and you often don’t realize it’s happening. Your dentist conducts a visual examination of your soft tissues in and around your mouth and lips. Then, they gently feel your neck and chin for any abnormal lumps. If they find something potentially alarming, they will refer you to a physician who can run more tests.
After oral cancer has been diagnosed, treatment could include removing the cancerous cells through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy as directed by an oncologist.
In the end, when you really know the facts behind oral cancer and work with your dentist, you can stay a step ahead of this disease. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can conquer oral cancer and continue to have a strong, winning smile!
About the Practice
At every dental checkup and cleaning appointment, our team at Williamsburg Dental keeps a sharp eye out for signs of oral cancer. We have nine very skilled, compassionate dentists on staff who have years of advanced training, and with our six locations around the Lincoln area, you’re sure to find an office close to you. If it has been a long time since your last oral cancer screening, contact one of our locations to schedule an appointment online or by calling us.