A Note from Your Hygienist

What Every Patient Needs To Know About Oral Cancer

The media is flooded with warnings about breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. But there’s another type of cancer that’s predicted will cause approximately 9,700 deaths in 2017 and does not always get the attention it deserves: oral cancer. While it’s common for patients to assume oral cancer will never happen to them, this is a serious group of cancers that can strike any person of any age.

While the number of people expected to be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers is concerning, the good news is that ensuring early detection is as easy as attending your routine dental exams every six months. What you may not realize is that oral cancer screening is part of your regular exam. When oral cancer is detected early, the survival rate is an encouraging 80% to 90%.

Oral Cancer Has a Number of Risk Factors
Smoking is the best-known risk factor for oral cancer. In fact, about 80% of those diagnosed with oral or oropharangeal cancer either smoke or use chewing tobacco. (Oropharyngeal cancers are those that affect the mouth and throat.) However, this does not mean you are protected from oral cancer if you are not a tobacco user. If 80% of patients are tobacco users, this means that 2 out of 10 are not, which is pretty significant.

Other risk factors for oral cancer include:
Heavy alcohol consumption
Genetic predisposition
Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
Taking drugs that impair the immune system
Exposure to UV light
Age (oral cancer becomes increasingly likely as you grow older)

Chances are, you are affected by at least one of these risk factors. While this does not necessarily mean you will develop oral cancer, it does mean that it’s important that you stay on the lookout for any signs or symptoms of the disease.

Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms
In between routine dental exams, you should perform self-examinations, and be sure to keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of oral cancer:
– Red or white patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue
– Swelling or thickening of areas inside the mouth
– Unexplained bleeding
– Sores on the face, neck, or mouth that do not heal
– Chronic sore throat
– Hoarseness
– A change in the way your dentures fit
– Suspicious lumps found by palpating your mouth, jaw, and neck
– Dramatic weight loss

Early Detection Is Key
Here at Dr. Burdens office we now offer the highest technology to ensure that oral caner is not a concern for you. With the use of the VELscope we can now see abnormalities that might not be visible to the naked eye.

If you visit your dentist for regular checkups, you will be screened for oral cancer to help ensure early detection. If you do develop any signs of oral cancer, your first call should be to your dentist. They can conduct a screening, and if they suspect your symptoms may suggest cancer, they will refer you to a specialist.