You may have heard about oral cancer in passing, but never bothered to investigate it. In 2017 alone, it was estimated that 53,000 Americans would be diagnosed, and about 11,000 would die from the disease. Every time you go to your family dentist in Frisco, CO for your routine checkup and cleaning, you’re getting an oral cancer screening in an attempt to spot signs and symptoms early and increase your chance of survival. The disease can manifest itself in multiple ways, so this Oral Cancer Awareness Month, take the time to continue reading to educate yourself on how oral cancer screenings could benefit you.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is when cells uncontrollably spread and cause damage to tissues located in your head and neck area, excluding the brain. Usually, the disease will form on your lips, tongue, cheeks, the floor or roof of your mouth, your throat, or sinuses. Oral cancer is just as serious and life-threatening as other cancers, and if not diagnosed early, it can be difficult to treat.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Although certain risk factors can heavily influence the development of oral cancer, they aren’t the direct cause of it. Here are two of the most common:
- Tobacco Use – this includes both smoking and chewing tobacco. Exposing your mouth to harmful chemicals found in these products are linked to 85% of head and neck cancer diagnoses. Secondhand smoke can also increase someone’s risk.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption – people who use both tobacco and alcohol have an especially high risk of developing oral cancer. Because alcohol is dehydrating, it increases the likelihood of tobacco carcinogens absorbing into your oral tissue. Alcohol also affects your body’s ability to fight the formation of cancer.
You can lower your chances of experiencing symptoms by making healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting tobacco products and reducing your alcohol intake.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
There’s a laundry list of symptoms and signs that could appear if you have oral cancer. Getting a professional screening by your dentist is vital in developing a diagnosis. A few common symptoms and signs of oral cancer that you can check for at home include:
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Sores around your mouth that don’t seem to be healing
- Numbness in your tongue
- Difficulty swallowing or moving your jaw
- Loose teeth or toothaches
Oral Cancer Screenings
During each of your semi-annual checkups and cleanings with your dentist in Frisco, they’ll perform an oral cancer screening. The exam consists of them checking the inside of your mouth for any red or white sores or patches. Next, they’ll put gloves on and feel your cheeks and oral tissue in search for lumps or any abnormal formations. If your dentist does find any problem areas during your screening, they may order special tests or additional testing such as a biopsy.
Tackle this Oral Cancer Awareness Month by taking necessary steps to reduce your risk of developing the disease and creating a healthier lifestyle. Your dentist could be the first to spot the signs at your semi-annual checkup and cleaning, so attending this appointment may save your life.
About the Author
Dr. Brett Amedro believes his patients should have access to the most up-to-date dental treatments and technology. He offers families in the community of Frisco, CO total comprehensive care, so they don’t have to travel across town to visit multiple dentists. He places emphasis on preventive dentistry so that each person that walks through his doors is equipped with the tools they need to maintain a healthy smile. For any questions or to schedule an appointment, visit his website or contact 970-668-1010.