Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses,and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
Risk factors for the development of oral cance include:
It is important to note that over 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally.What Is the Outlook for People With Oral Cancer? The overall 1-year survival rate for patients with all stages of oral cavity and pharynx cancers is 81%. The 5- and 10-year survival rates are 56% and 41%, respectively.
As part of your routine dental exam, your dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening exam. More specifically, your dentist will feel for any lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. When examining your mouth, your dentist will look for any sores or discolored tissue as well as check for any signs and symptoms mentioned above. A biopsy may be needed to determine the makeup of a suspicious looking area.
There are different types of biopsies and your doctor can determine which one is best. Many doctors don’t use brush biopsies because while they’re very easy, they still need a scalpel biopsy to confirm the results if the brush biopsy is positive. Also there are different types of scalpel biopsies, incisional and excisional, depending whether only a piece or the whole area is needed to determine what the nature of the problem is. Some doctors preform these biopsies with lasers.
Oral cancer is treated the same way many other cancers are treated — with surgery to remove the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy (drug treatments) to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
To prevent oral cancer:
Conduct a self exam at least once a month
Using a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of your gums. Tilt your head back and look at and feel the roof of your mouth. Pull your checks out to view the inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and the back gums.
Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces; examine the floor of your mouth. Look at the back of your throat. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Call your dentist’s office immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
See your dentist on a regular schedule
Even though you may be conducting frequent self exams, sometimes dangerous spots or sores in the mouth can be very tiny and difficult to see on your own.. During your next dental appointment, ask your dentist to perform an oral exam. Early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment.