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Posted on: November 21, 2022
All About Oral Cancers
Mouth cancer shows up as a sore or growth in the oral cavity or throat (pharynx) that does not disappear on its own. It can appear on the cheeks, tongue, lips, mouth floor, soft and hard palate, throat and sinuses.
If you don’t diagnose and treat mouth cancer early, it could become life-threatening. When you detect mouth cancer early enough, however, it is easier for dentists and doctors to treat. Unfortunately, most people do not seek a diagnosis until their condition has advanced too far for easy or effective treatment.
You can protect yourself from mouth cancer, however, by seeing your dentist in Hudson Valley regularly and being sure the dentist includes a mouth cancer screening in your exam. People over 20 should get a mouth cancer screening every three years, while people over 40 should get one every year.
A mouth cancer screening is a simple and painless procedure in which the dentist feels and visually examines every part of your mouth as well as your throat, neck, face and head seeking any abnormalities. You can also help protect yourself from mouth cancer by performing a similar exam on yourself every month or so.
If you notice anything unusual or different during a mouth cancer self-exam, even if it’s not something listed as a common symptom, let your dentist know about it right away.
If your dentist identifies anything suspicious on or around your mouth, he or she may refer you for a biopsy to determine whether or not what he or she observed is cancerous.
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
The symptoms most commonly associated with mouth cancer include:
- Thickenings, swellings, bumps, lumps, eroded areas, crusts or rough spots on the cheek, gums, lips or other spots within the mouth
- White, red or white and red speckled patches with a velvety texture within the mouth
- Unexplained mouth bleeding
- Unexplained loss of feeling, pain, tenderness or numbness in any part of the neck, face or mouth
- Sores on the neck, face or mouth that bleed with ease and persist beyond two weeks without improvement
- Feeling like you have something caught in the back of your throat
- Chronic sore throat, hoarseness or a change in your voice
- Problems with talking, chewing, swallowing or moving around the tongue or jaw
- Jaw pain or swelling
- For denture wearers: an uncomfortable fit or difficulty putting them in
- Differences in how your teeth or dentures now fit together or your bite
- Drastic weight loss
If you observe any of these symptoms, get in touch with your dentist in Hudson Valley immediately.
Who Gets Mouth Cancer?
Around 50,000 Americans develop mouth cancer every year. Of those people, 70 percent are men and 70 percent are Caucasian. With the risk of mouth cancer increasing as you age, particularly after you pass 40 years of age, that would make Caucasian men over 40 among the highest-risk groups for mouth cancer.
Risk Factors for Developing Mouth Cancer
You may increase your chances of developing mouth cancer if you engage in any of the following activities:
- Eating a poor diet lacking in proper nutrition
- Smoking, including cigarettes, pipes, water pipes and cigars, or using smokeless tobacco products, such as chew, snuff and dip
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- A history of cancer–and mouth cancer, in particular–in your family
- Excessive exposure to the sun, particularly at an early age
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Older age
- Male gender
Therefore, to help prevent mouth cancer, quit smoking, reduce drinking, avoid excessive sun exposure and use appropriate sunblock when out under the sun and eat a healthy and balanced diet.
It’s important to note here, however, that more than one-fourth of all mouth cancers appear in people who only occasionally drink alcohol and don’t smoke at all.
Outlook for People With Mouth Cancer
The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed early with mouth cancers (including both oral cavity and oropharynx cancers) is 84 percent. If, however, the cancer has already spread to any surrounding organs, tissues or lymph nodes, that five-year survival rate sinks to 65 percent.
How Is Oral or Mouth Cancer Diagnosed?
During your regular dental checkup, your Hudson Valley dentist will perform an oral or mouth cancer screening. Since your dentist is well-aware of how a healthy mouth should appear, he or she would be the best person to spot any signs of possible cancer.
According to dental experts, you should get an oral or mouth cancer screening once per year starting at 18 years of age or sooner if you start having sex, smoking tobacco or using smokeless tobacco products and/or start drinking heavily on a regular basis.
During an oral or mouth cancer screening, your dentist will feel around your oral cavity, head, face and neck for any abnormal tissue changes or lumps. The dentist will also search for any discolored tissue or sores and any of the other symptoms of oral or mouth cancer described previously.
Once the dentist notices something suspicious, a biopsy will be necessary to determine whether or not the area is cancerous. Different kinds of biopsies exist, and, together with your dentist, you can figure out which is best for you. Some common examples include brush biopsies, scalpel biopsies and laser biopsies.
How Oral or Mouth Cancer Is Treated?
Once a diagnosis of oral or mouth cancer is confirmed, you and your dentist will discuss your treatment options and come up with your best possible course of treatment. This may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It may also include surgery or targeted therapy using medications.
If you have concerns you may be developing oral or mouth cancer or you simply want to do all you can to prevent it, contact us right away at Family Dental Group and we’ll schedule you for a screening with a Hudson Valley dentist.