How Oral Cancer Awareness Can Save Your Life

In the United States, someone dies every hour because of oral or oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat). Nearly 52,000 people will be newly diagnosed this year, and of those 52,000 4 out of 10 won’t survive over five years. Walker-Barr DMD wants patients to understand their risk for oral and oropharyngeal cancer and better understand how screening works

How to Identify Oral Cancer

 The Oral Cancer Foundation promotes a Check Your Mouth™ campaign that encourages people to do oral cancer self-checks. There are a few major risk factors for oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Heavy alcohol and tobacco use, and HPV16. The Oral Cancer Foundation outlines the following signs and symptoms to look for when checking yourself.

 Risk Factors: Tobacco use and Alcohol

These are the more common symptoms of someone who consumes tobacco or alcohol. 

  •  Any sore in the mouth that does not heal within 14 days.
  •  Red, white, or black discoloration of the gums, tongue, or other soft tissue.
  •  Any lump, spot, or sore that bleeds easily when touched. 
  •  A lump or hard spot typically on the border of the tongue.
  •  Abnormal growth.
  •  A sore under a denture that does not heal, even after adjustment. 
  •  A lump or thickening of tissue.
  •  A firm lump on the outside of the neck, lasting over 2 weeks

Risk Factor: HPV16

 These are symptoms associated with HPV related oral or oropharyngeal cancer

  •  Hoarseness or sore throat 
  •  A firm lump on the outside of the neck
  •  Constant coughing 
  •  Difficulty swallowing and or, a feeling that food is getting caught in your throat
  • An earache on one side 

If any of these symptoms don’t resolve within 2 weeks, see your doctor. 

 What is an Oral Cancer Screening?

 Your dentist or hygienist can do a visual examination of your mouth to check for abnormalities. Exams are painless and involve the feeling of tissue in the mouth and visually examining it. It may also include a tactile exam of the lymph nodes in the neck. There are adjunct tools your doctor may use, like special lights or dies to help them see abnormalities. If they find something of concern, the next stage would diagnose the issue. This involves referring the patient out for a traditional biopsy.

Oral cancer screening is an easy way to keep yourself healthy. If you want to learn more about oral cancer awareness, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation or schedule an appointment with Walker-Barr DMD.  

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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