In 2019, about 53,000 adults in the United States were diagnosed with oral cancer. When it’s diagnosed at its early stages, the survival rate is 84%; however, late-stage diagnosis results in a death rate of about 45%. At all of your semi-annual checkups and cleanings, your dentist in Copperas Cove gives you an oral cancer screening, and you may not even notice. While it’s not one of the most well-known cancers, it does carry a heavy price when left untreated. Because this April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to educate yourself on risk factors and prevention measures you can take to stop it in its tracks.
What Are Risk Factors Of Oral Cancer?
Cancer begins with a malignant tumor, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of your body. Oral cancer happens specifically in the head or neck, not including the brain. So, this kind of cancer can develop anywhere from your lips to your throat. There are multiple risk factors for oral cancer:
- Tobacco use has a detrimental impact on the inside of your mouth where the chemicals come into contact with it. Whether you’re smoking or chewing tobacco products, it can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol also increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Exposing yourself to excessive amounts of sunlight has been linked to cancer mainly located in the lip area. This can be especially risky for people who have fair skin.
- Human papillomavirus has been linked to causing oral cancer as well.
These are just a few out of many risk factors. But adjusting bad habits such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can help lower your chances of developing it.
What Are the Signs Of Oral Cancer?
Oftentimes, your dentist will be the first person that spots signs of oral cancer during your semi-annual checkup and cleaning. Although the following signs and symptoms are related to oral cancer, they can also be signs of other medical conditions as well:
- Mouth sores that don’t heal in less than two weeks
- Red and white sores in your mouth
- Lumps on your lips, mouth, neck, or throat
- Numb tongue
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving your jaw or tongue
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth or toothaches
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your dentist immediately. They’ll consult you about how long you’ve been experiencing these signs in an attempt to diagnose your problem.
What Is An Oral Cancer Screening?
Your dentist uses a screening to look for any indications of head and neck cancer. The goal is to catch the signs before they progress and become harder to treat. At some practices, the process will involve you swishing a special solution around your mouth and then being exposed to an Identifi wand. Potentially cancerous or precancerous spots in your mouth will light up differently than healthy tissue, indicating that you may need a biopsy.
Other types of screenings may include your dentist examining parts of your neck and mouth with their hands in search of any abnormalities or symptoms. This Oral Cancer Awareness Month invest time in making sure you’re healthy and cancer-free by scheduling your semi-annual appointment and getting prevention tips from your dentist.
About the Author
At Benchmark Family Dental, our dentists use the most advanced oral cancer screening technology to try to stop it in its tracks. Identifi helps to locate problem areas that could be potentially cancerous so our dentists can take the necessary steps to form a diagnosis. Our dentists pride themselves in making patients feel cared for and comfortable above all else. To schedule a semi-annual checkup and cleaning or for any questions, visit Benchmark Family Dental’s website or contact 254-547-4866.