Cancer is a devastating disease that can affect some different areas of your body. Oral cancer is the largest group of cancers that affect the head and neck. It can affect the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, or the back of the mouth near the throat. If not diagnosed and treated early, oral cancer can be fatal. However, the earliest warning signs of oral cancer are not often noticeable. As a result, many of those diagnosed do not receive their diagnosis until the cancer has worsened. Of the thousands diagnosed every year, only just over half live past five years Mid Valley Family Dental can aid in the early detection of oral cancer with oral cancer screenings.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Some of these factors are controllable, while others are not. Risk factors include:
- Lifestyle habits. Smoking cigarettes, and the use of other tobacco products, as well as heavy drinking, can significantly increase your risk.
- Certain strains of HPV. There are numerous strains of the human papilloma virus or HPV. Only a handful are associated with oral cancer, HPV16 having the strongest connection.
- Having a family history of oral cancer. If you have a close blood relative who has had oral cancer, you have a higher risk.
- Your age. Older adults are more likely to develop oral cancer. The highest risk is for men over the age of 55.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer has many symptoms that can present when oral cancer develops. However, these early symptoms are often difficult to detect. While we can detect these early symptoms, oral cancer does not wait until your regularly scheduled cleanings and exams to show up. Knowing what to look out for can help you to get the help you need much faster, increasing your chances of restoring your oral, and overall, health.
- Growths on your intraoral tissues, including red and white patches.
- Sores that do not heal.
- A change in your bite, or in the way that your dentures fit.
- Feeling a numb sensation in your chin.
- Difficulty with chewing and swallowing.
- Trouble speaking.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer
At every dental exam, we perform an oral cancer screening. During this screening, we look over your intraoral tissues, checking for unusual growths and abnormalities. We also check your neck and face for signs of swelling. If we do find anything unusual, a more thorough exam is needed. During a diagnostic exam, we take a much closer look at the soft tissues in your mouth. We may take X-rays to get a closer look at the hidden structures of your mouth. A soft tissue biopsy may also be performed. A soft tissue biopsy involves taking a small sample of an abnormality from your mouth for closer examination under a microscope. The microscope allows us to determine, or rule out, the presence of cancerous, or precancerous, cells. If we do detect oral cancer, we can then refer you to get the treatment you need. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer are crucial for combatting the disease and restoring your quality of life. Oral cancer screenings are essential for early detection and are a part of your regular dental exams. If it is time to schedule your next dental exam, and oral cancer screening, call Mid Valley Family Dental today at 503-902-1622.