Oral cancer refers to a number of types of cancer, a disease in which abnormal cells spread and damage the body, that can form within the mouth, especially the gums, tongue, lips, or the back of the throat. This can present in several ways, and a dentist will look for it during your routine dental check-up every six months. Thousands of patients are diagnosed with oral cancer each year.
With early detection, oral cancer is often highly treatable. Your dentist and doctor will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your unique medical history and oral health needs. Read on to learn more about oral cancer, its symptoms, and its treatment options.
How Do I Know If I Have Oral Cancer?
Because oral cancer comes in many forms, it can manifest with a variety of different symptoms. Not all of the following concerns will point definitively to cancer. But if you do notice any of these issues, you might want to speak to your dentist:
- Sores on the lips or mouth
- Mouth pain
- Jaw pain
- Ear pain
- Swelling or thickening within the mouth or lips
- Lumps on the neck, jaw, or face
- Discoloration within the mouth, including the tongue or gums
- Sore throat
- Difficulty performing oral functions, like chewing or speaking
- Numbness within the mouth
- Voice changes
- Loose teeth
- Ill-fitting dental appliances
Your dentist will inquire about any changes in your mouth when you attend your routine dental check-up. During this appointment, they will also feel around your chin, jaw, and neck for lumps or swelling that might point to a problem. This is known as an oral cancer screening. Learn more by calling your dentist and scheduling an appointment today.
How Can I Treat Oral Cancer?
Treatment of oral cancer will depend on the progression of the disease. Pre-cancerous lumps or sores will need surgery to remove them and then follow-up appointments to ensure cancer does not return.
Early stages of oral cancer will respond well usually to surgery along with radiation therapy. Some patients may also receive chemotherapy treatment. More intense types of therapies may be necessary for more advanced cancer cases.
Early diagnosis of oral cancer makes treatment easier. So make sure you attend your regular dentist appointments where a dentist can check for early signs of cancer in your mouth.
Oral cancer can affect anyone, but certain risk factors make a patient more likely to develop it than others. For instance, people over the age of 40, tobacco users, those with HPV, and people with high amounts of sun exposure can have a greater chance of getting oral cancers.
If you notice any changes in your smile or have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to your dentist. They can speak to you over the phone, or they may suggest they come to their office for an emergency visit. Do not delay an evaluation of any worries you have with your oral health or symptoms may worsen.