April was Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral cancers include those found on the lip, throat, gums, cheek lining, and tongue.
The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that 115 people are diagnosed with mouth cancers each day. And did you know that the five year survival rate is 64%percent? This is why early detection is very important.
I’d like to spend some time discussing the signs and symptoms of oral cancers.
What We Look For
Your dentist should check for oral cancers at each cleaning appointment. Our hygienist, Laurie, checks for enlarged lymph nodes as well as discoloration or sores at the back of the tongue, cheek lining, and tonsils every time she cleans your teeth. She says that though mouth cancers seem rare, she has spotted early-stage mouth cancers in our patients over the years. It can happen.
Between visits, there are six symptoms that you should be aware of, if they linger for more than two weeks:
- A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust, or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Usually, those predisposed to mouth cancers have a history of smoking, chewing tobacco, or consuming alcohol. According to the ADA, “Research has identified a number of factors that contribute to the development of mouth and throat cancers. Smokers and excessive alcohol drinkers older than 50 are the most at risk.”
Less than 7 percent of those diagnosed with a mouth cancer have no history of alcohol or tobacco use. This type of cancer is very rarely genetic.
Your Health Is Important to Us
Cancer seems like such a scary word, doesn’t it? I don’t bring this up to spread doom and gloom. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
If we work together for early detection and are aware of the symptoms and the realities of oral cancer, it is a whole lot easier to make informed and life-saving decisions.
Consider us your mouth cancer detection and dental health team. If it’s been a little while since your last checkup, visit our website or give us a call to schedule your next appointment. We would be so glad to see you!
~Dr. Marea White