- April 1, 2016
We don’t often think about oral cancer. It doesn’t get nearly as much press as breast cancer or other easily recognizable types of the deadly disease, but it should: the survival rates for oral cancer are about half that of breast, testicular, prostate, and thyroid cancers.
Oral cancer might be less common, but it’s also less understood, and that’s what makes it so deadly. In many cases patients don’t even know they have it until it’s too late. Diagnosis methods are becoming more reliable, but a lack of awareness is one of the most dangerous parts of this disease.
April is oral cancer awareness month, so there’s no better time for our team at Brandon Family Dental to discuss this deadly condition with you. Hopefully the discussion we have here can increase your awareness and decrease your chances of developing it!
Oral Cancer: Why Is It So Deadly?
Your mouth is a super complicated part of your body. There are all sorts of little crevices, crannies, and places for things to hide in it, and for a long time cancer was the last thing dentists thought to check for. When they did their methods weren’t great: it was simply shining a light in there and looking for abnormal spots.
That’s why oral cancer is so deadly: it doesn’t usually so symptoms early on, and by the time it’s caught it has usually already metastasized. Diagnosis capabilities have been getting better, like with the Vizilite we use at our Ortonville office, but it still often goes unnoticed.
Regular exams every six months include an oral cancer screening, and for most patients it’s simply a quick look around to see if anything has changed. That’s another reason why professional checkups are so important – we’ll get to know your mouth and track its health history!
Know What To Look For
We can do a lot at your twice annual exam, but we still only get to see you every six months. It helps to know what to look for so you can keep an eye on your mouth at home, especially if you’re at risk for cancer of any kind.
We recommend occasional self checks with a dental mirror and a flashlight. Be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms, both during your check and at other times:
- lumps, swelling, red spots, crusty wounds, or swelling
- red or white lesions
- a change in your bite or the fit of your dentures
- trouble swallowing, or the feeling of something stuck in your throat
- tenderness, loss of sensation, or numbness in your mouth, neck, or throat
- ear pain without any loss of hearing
- sores on your mouth, lips or cheek that won’t heal
If any of these symptoms persist more than two weeks after you first notice them you should make an appointment at our Ortonville office right away.
Who Is At Risk For Oral Cancer?
Like any kind of cancer, there are a number of things you can do that put you at risk. Not all risk factors are under your control, however, so it pays to be aware of all of them.
- A history of cancer, of any kind, in your family
- tobacco use, both smoking and smokeless
- frequent or heavy alcohol consumption
- excess sun exposure (can contribute to cancer on the lips)
- poor eating habits (specifically a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables)
- age (people over 40 are the most common oral cancer patients)
- presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV-16)
Keep in mind that all of these are risk factors, not a guarantee that you’ll develop oral cancer. By controlling the risk factors you can manage, like diet, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and sun exposure, you can make a huge difference!
The Best Prevention Is Proper Oral Care
Self checks are a great way to notice symptoms, but nothing beats a professional oral cancer screening at Brandon Family Dental. With regular care every six months we can be sure to catch oral cancer as soon as it shows signs, even those we can’t see with the naked eye. Our Vizilite system detects oral cancer early so that we can diagnose and treat it before it’s a deadly risk.
It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen the dentist – we’d love to welcome you to our Ortonville office! Schedule an appointment by giving us a call at 248-469-0218 or request an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you soon!