Have You Had Your Oral Cancer Screening?

Posted: August 7, 2018 By: Comment: 0

Person writing the words "oral cancer".

Nobody likes to find out that they have cancer. However, finding cancer early is the best way to stop it in its tracks. That is why dentists will do an oral cancer screening every time you go in for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings. No one should die from oral cancer, when it is preventable and can be stopped when detected! Stop oral cancer in its tracks with an oral cancer screening!

 

What Is Oral Cancer?

Nobody likes to hear the word “cancer”, and yet, it is everywhere and can happen almost in any part of the body. Your mouth is no exception. Out of the 100+ types of cancers out there, oral cancer is one that affects your mouth. Just like other cancers, it can be deadly without proper prevention and treatment in its early stages. At its beginning stages, you won’t notice anything different in your mouth, but a dentist will notice the start of oral cancer.

 

In the later stages, patients report symptoms and signs such as:

  • Bleeding in the mouth, seemingly for no reason.
  • Numbness or loss of feeling in parts of the mouth.
  • Lumps or bumps in the mouth, especially ones that continue to grow. That includes areas of thickening or swollen tissues.
  • Rough spots or crusty areas on the lips, gums and other mouth tissues.
  • Patches in the mouth that are velvety white, red or a speckled combination of the two.
  • Sores on the face, neck or inside the mouth that bleed and don’t heal quickly.
  • Changes in the way your voice sounds as well as chronic soreness of the throat that doesn’t go away.
  • Weight loss that can sometimes be severe.
  • Problems chewing, eating, swallowing, speaking or moving the tongue or jaws.

 

Close-up view of a patient having their mouth looked at by a dentist.

Facts and Figures

Even though oral cancer doesn’t claim as many lives as other types of cancers, it still claims way too many. This type of cancer is luckily one that can be halted, whereas others can’t be. Still, the statistics show that too many lives are claimed each year from oral cancer:

  • Someone dies every hour of every day in the United States from oral cancer.
  • The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) reported that about 49,750 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017. The amount that will be diagnosed this year is about the same.
  • About 132 people die every day from oral cancer.
  • The OCF also reported that there is only a 43% survival rate if it’s not found until the later stages.
  • When found early-on, patients have an 80-90% survival rate.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use plays a major role in developing mouth cancer.
  • Patients not vaccinated against the HPV-16 virus (human papilloma virus version 16) are also at risk for developing oral cancer.

 

Can You Combat It?

There are only so many ways you can combat oral cancer. The best way is to get rid of all your risk factors for it. Get vaccinated for the HPV virus after speaking with your doctor. Find out if you have a history for cancer in your family, especially oral cancer. In many cases, your lifestyle is what will determine if you will develop mouth cancer or not. This is especially true if you smoke or use chewing tobacco. Studies show that smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes will raise your risk for oral cancer by 6 times.

 

Don’t think that going “smokeless” will be healthier for you either. Smokeless tobacco products can actually be even worse for you because of the chemicals they contain that are unnatural for the body. This includes dip, snuff and chewing tobacco, which raises your risk for oral cancer 50 times because the tobacco comes in direct contact with your mouth tissues for long periods of time. So yes, you can combat oral cancer with the help of a dentist trying to stop it through excessive dental care. However, the best way to combat it is to stop using any and all tobacco products as well as alcohol. Alcohol won’t be as strong as tobacco is for causing oral cancer, but it will raise your risk for developing it by 6 times.

 

A dentist discussing treatment options with a patient in the office.

Comprehensive Exams

Patients can’t feel oral cancer forming, so it can only be found if it’s detected by a dentist trained to notice the signs and symptoms. This is why the comprehensive exam is so important in dentistry. All patients should visit the dentist at least every 6 months for a comprehensive dental exam. This is where a dentist can examine a patient’s oral cavity to check for abnormalities.

 

When you come in for your exam, an oral cancer screening only takes a few minutes. A dentist will examine your teeth, gums, cheeks, tongue, throat and even outside your mouth around your neck and mouth for lumps. Anything that is abnormal will be noted and if the dentist suspects that it is oral cancer, you will start treatment right away. With the right dental and medical care, a dentist can actually help halt the progression of the cancer when they find it. The best time is right in its earliest stages, when it can be stopped and you can enjoy a normal, long life.

 

Avoiding Other Oral Diseases

Not only is the comprehensive exam great for detecting oral cancer, but it can detect other oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease. In their early stages, only a dentist can detect these problems. Coincidentally, it’s also in the early stages that the problems can be fixed or reversed. Bottom line: make sure you are visiting your dentist for your biannual dental exams and cleanings.

 

The American Dental Association recommends that every person (children and infants included) see the dentist every 6 months. Between those visits, make sure you are brushing your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day and flossing daily as well. To schedule your exam and oral cancer screening, call Dr. Ania’s office today at (303) 872-9940!

AUTHOR

Dr. Ania Mohelicki

All stories by: Dr. Ania Mohelicki