Oral Cancer: Early Detection Saves Lives

In America alone, almost 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Of those people, only a little more than half will be alive five years from now. Because of its far-reaching impact on many families worldwide, April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

Additionally, many who do survive suffer long-term problems, such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties with eating and speaking.

During this month, oral health professionals and those affected by oral cancer of all types work hard to spread awareness and educate people on the disease, what it looks like, and the preventative steps people can take to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Oral Cancer: What Is It?

Oral cancer is the commonly used term by oral health professionals when talking about a variety of cancers that affect the oral cavity, including the tongue, lips, and throat. These types of cancer can affect anyone, making it extremely important to regularly complete oral cancer screenings and self-directed examinations of your oral cavity.

Oral Cancer: What are the Symptoms?

Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. In between dental visits, it is important for everyone to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and to see a dental professional if they do not improve or disappear after two to three weeks:

  • a sore, or soreness or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • red or white patches, or pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

When it comes to symptoms, keep this two to three week time period in mind, but always call your dentist right away if you have any immediate concerns.

Oral Cancer: What Factors Increase the Risk?

Research has identified several factors that may contribute to the development of oral cancer. Historically, those at an especially high risk of developing oral cancer have been heavy drinkers and smokers over the age 50, but today the cancer also is occurring more frequently in younger, nonsmoking people.

The sexually transmitted human papillomavirus 16 (HPV) is related to the increasing incidence of oropharyngeal cancer (most commonly involving tonsillar tissue, including the base of tongue) in that younger population. HPV caused oropharyngeal cancer may present with one or more of the following persistent (longer than two-three weeks) signs and symptoms:

  • a painless lump or swelling felt in the neck
  • sore throat, difficulty swallowing, or pain when swallowing
  • swelling of the tonsillar areas at the back of the mouth

Be aware of the symptoms and risk factors of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Early detection and treatment may well be the key to a complete recovery.

Side-note … during my research for this blog, I had to ask, “What is a Betel Nut?” The information I
discovered is disturbing:

Betel nuts are found across Asia, growing in palm trees. They’re used so widely, they’re one of the most popular mind-altering substances in the world. People chew on the nut and the leaf together to get high. Supposedly, it’s like a combination of tobacco and a lot of caffeine.

When they are chewed, the nuts give user a rush of stamina and euphoria. Excessive chewing causes discolored or even loss of teeth and oral cancer. Unfortunately, they’re not very difficult to purchase in the U.S. because they are not illegal or banned at this time.

Even though the betel nut is not a controlled substance, it can be illegal to import, especially wholesale. They can be dangerous, and the World Health Organization has labeled the betel nut as a carcinogen.

Oral Cancer: Is it Preventable?

Oral cancer is not completely preventable, but there are certain steps that a person can take to lower their risk and identify warning signs in the cancer’s early stages.

  • Schedule Your Dental Exam: Trusted oral health professionals recommend that you schedule regular oral cancer screenings to keep an eye on your oral health and quickly identify any suspicious changes.
  • Self-Exam: People can also conduct oral inspections on themselves and their loved ones monthly in addition to a complete oral health maintenance regime. If you experience any of the above symptoms and warning signs or notice any sudden changes in your oral health, immediately contact your dentist for a more thorough inspection.

Premier Dental in Lee’s Summit Can Help:

With regular oral cancer screenings and dental check-ups, you can decrease your risk of not catching oral cancer ahead of time. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, making it a great time to schedule your next oral cancer screening and check-up at Premier Dental.

Related Article: The Importance of a 6-month Dental Appointment at Premier Dental

Contact us today to book your appointment with our team of friendly oral health professionals at Premier Dental.

Additional Resources:

Dr. Stephan Caye and his friendly, experienced team at Premier Dental offer affordable family dentistry and gentle dental care in the Lee’s Summit, MO area. Our office is conveniently located off of Highway 50 and SE Blue Parkway. We offer appointment times Monday through Friday to meet your needs. At Premier Dental, we provide most dental health services, from family and general dentistry to specialty procedures, including dental implants, dentures, endodontic or root canal treatment, teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry, emergency dental care and much more. We accept most dental insurance plans and offer affordable financial solutions for any budget. Please call us at (816) 600-6330 to schedule an appointment.