If there’s one fact you learn about oral cancer, let it be that this type of cancer is highly treatable if it is caught early. If not detected early, oral cancer can be deadly. So how do we detect oral cancer early? Visit your dentist on a regular basis and know the warning signs.
During your routine dental exam at Gilreath Family Dentistry, we will perform a painless oral cancer screening. Attending these appointments every six months is undoubtedly the easiest and most effective way to catch oral cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. In between these visits, however, you should know what to watch out for at home.
Remember that oral cancer can affect many parts of your mouth, including your gums, cheeks, tongue and lips. Signs and symptoms can involve the following:
- Mouth sores which are persistent and bleed easily, or sores appearing on the face or neck that don’t seem to heal
- Any unexplained numbness, pain, or tenderness in your face, mouth, or neck
- Velvety patches in the mouth or on the lip that are white, red, or speckled
- Unexplained bleeding in your mouth not linked to gingivitis
- Lumps or swelling in your neck/throat
- Difficulty swallowing, struggling to moving your jaw or tongue
- Ear pain
- Jaw stiffness
- Sudden mobility of a tooth without explanation
- Prolonged hoarseness, chronic sore throat or change in voice
Many of these symptoms can be easily mistaken for something harmless, like a common cold or fever blister. If you find that your mouth sore isn’t healing after 10-14 days, it is time to see a dentist for an oral cancer screening.
Know Your Risk
Beyond knowing the symptoms of oral cancer, it is equally important to know its risk factors. There are some common lifestyle habits that dramatically increase your risk for mouth cancer. Adjusting your lifestyle and being aware of the following risk factors can aid in oral cancer prevention:
- Tobacco Use
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- HPV (human papilloma virus)
What steps can you make today to be mindful of oral cancer? Is it scheduling your routine dental visit and oral cancer screening? Is it taking the time to perform a self-exam of your gums, lips, tongue and cheek to look for changes or lesions? Or is it kicking your smoking habit or limiting your alcohol use? At Gilreath Family Dentistry, we welcome the opportunity to educate our patients about oral cancer, including its symptoms, risk factors and dangers.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,