Oral cancer is a serious disease, but the signs can be difficult for many people to spot on their own. Fortunately, an action everyone should be taking anyway may also lead to early detection of this type of cancer. Read on and find out what you need to know about uncovering the clues of oral cancer.
Oral Cancer: The Facts
- The good news is that oral cancer can be survived if it can be detected and treated early enough. It's not a rare type of cancer, with about 54,000 people predicted to be afflicted by it this year. Unfortunately, about 11,230 deaths may follow for those diagnosed.
- Early signs of oral cancer include subtle changes in the skin of the oral cavity. Signs may appear as discolored areas or spots on the inside cheek, tongue, or gum area. These areas may appear grey or white when illuminated with a bright light. In addition, sores that don't heal and growths on the inside of the mouth can be signs of oral cancer.
- Few people realize it but when they are examined by their dental hygienist at their cleaning appointments, they are also being screened for oral cancer. Dentists and dental hygienists are trained to recognize the subtle signs of oral cancer. That is why your dental professional may use a very bright light to peer inside your mouth and under your tongue during a cleaning appointment. They may also gently palpitate your neck areas, jaws, and face to detect swollen areas or lumps. This can help them spot the signs of problems with your salivary glands and lymph nodes.
- More men than women are diagnosed with oral cancer and the incidence may vary based on family history. Smoking and using smokeless tobacco can increase the chances of oral cancer. Age is also a factor with an average age of detection being about 63 years old. Another recent discovery is that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase the likelihood of oral cancers appearing among younger patients. Those at high risk may be advised to either have more frequent hygiene appointments at the dentist or learn to do an examination yourself. Bright light and the help of a friend who knows what to look for are necessary for those who want to see things for themselves.
Once spotted, your dentist will refer you to a cancer doctor for further evaluation and treatment. The chances of spotting and surviving oral cancer can be enhanced just by visiting your dentist, so make an appointment and get screened and cleaned today.