Get Checked! It’s Oral Cancer Awareness Month
It is officially Oral Cancer Awareness month, which means there is no better time to get checked. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 54,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. Even more alarming, each day 132 new people will be diagnosed with oral cancer.
Are you or someone you love at risk?
Dr. Nishant Joshi, DMD, MSD, Board Certified Periodontal Surgeon, says historically, the primary risk factors of oral cancer include tobacco use, frequent or excessive alcohol consumption, compromised immune system, and history of cancer.
“Human papillomavirus (HPV) related oropharyngeal cancer in the tonsils and the base of the tongue has become more common,” Dr. Joshi states.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Early signs of oral cancer can be a symptom as common as a toothache or your average cold.
“If symptoms persist for several weeks or months, it is important to see your dentist as soon as possible for screening and detection,” Dr. Joshi says.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Persistent mouth sores that do not heal
- Pain in the mouth, jaw, or teeth
- Lump or a thickening in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or movement of the jaw or mouth
- Weight loss
- Voice changes
- Dental prosthesis may hurt
Another indicator of oral cancer, Dr. Joshi says is a white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth.
Should I be worried about multiple oral cancers or just one type?
Almost all oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas according to Dr. Joshi and can be difficult to differentiate from other benign conditions in the mouth. Some other types of oral cancers are verrucous carcinoma, a very slow-growing cancer and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Minor salivary gland carcinoma, lymphoma and benign oral cavity tumors.
When is the right time to get an oral exam?
“Earlier the better,” Dr. Joshi says, especially if you have the risk factors like drinking or tobacco use. The screening process is usually conducted during a routine dental check-up and may include palpation, visual examination or using fluorescence light to look for changes in the natural tissues.
Reducing exposure to possible risk factors are the key to oral cancer prevention. Early detection and treatment are the keys to a successful outcome, so visit your dentist on a regular basis for routine check-ins.
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