Oral Cancer – What should you know
Oral Cancer is the sixth most common cancer, accounting for nearly 5% of all cases. Approximately 3,200 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed in Canada this year and many more cases will be diagnosed with dysplasia (pre-cancer), according to the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it can go unnoticed in its preliminary stages. However, in many cases general dentists can detect the disease early, which makes the dental community the first line of defense against oral cancer, and makes it crucial to talk with your general dentist immediately if you believe that you are experiencing any symptoms.
What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
Oral cancer typically is painless in its early stages but can become painful as it spreads.
Go to your dentist immediately if you observe any of the following: changes in the way your teeth fit together; oral sores that bleed easily or don’t heal; lumps, thickening, rough spots, or crusty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
How is oral cancer treated?
Methods of treatment for oral cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. This treatment is determined in conjunction with your physician.
What are the risk factors for oral cancer?
Risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, alcohol use, sun exposure (lips), previous head and neck cancer diagnosis and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. HPV can cause cancer in the back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer), including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
How can I prevent oral cancer?
To help prevent oral cancer, abstain from using all forms of tobacco, and avoid excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all preteen boy and girls age 11 to 12 should be vaccinated for HPV, which may aid in reducing the risk of oral cancer. The vaccines also are recommended for males and females ages 13 to 26 if they haven’t received them already.
Because successful treatment and rehabilitation of oral cancer are dependent upon early detection, it is extremely important to regularly check your mouth for any changes and to maintain regular dental visits, at least every six months. Oral cancer screening can save lives!