Oral Cancer And Dental Screenings With Routine Dental Checkups
With all the medical progress we have made in cancer treatment, oral cancer is one of the few types that haven’t had a reduced mortality rate in over 30 years. Our Scarborough area dentists can help this decline by providing you with the following information:
In fact, the number of North Americans developing oral cancer today is 3 times the number that develops cervical cancer.
Oral cancer kills one person every hour, 24 hours a day in the U.S. alone! Of over 34,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only half will be alive in 5 years if nothing changes. If you have concerns about your oral health give us a call for a dental exam.
Oral cancer most commonly involves the tissue of the lips or the tongue. It may also occur on the:
- Cheek lining
- Floor of the mouth
- Gums (gingiva)
- Roof of the mouth (palate)
Most oral cancers look very similar under the microscope and are called squamous cell carcinomas. These are cancerous and tend to spread quickly.
Smoking and other tobacco use are linked to 70 – 80% of oral cancer cases. Heavy alcohol use is also associated with an increased risk for oral cancer.
Other factors that may increase the risk for oral cancer include:
- Chronic irritation (such as from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings)
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
- Poor dental and oral hygiene
Some oral cancers begin as a white area (leukoplakia) or as a mouth ulcer. If you have something in your mouth that looks like either of these and it doesn’t go away within a few weeks, it should be checked by a dentist or physician familiar with lesions of the mouth.
Oral cancer accounts for about 5% of all cancerous growths. Men get oral cancer twice as often as women do, particularly men older than 40.
Symptoms of oral cancer include mouth sores, lumps, or ulcers:
- Usually painless at first (may become painful when the tumor is advanced)
- Due to the varied appearance of cancer in the mouth, it is virtually impossible to tell by merely looking at a lesion what it is.
- For suspicious lesions, there is a totally non-invasive screening tool available. Sometimes a biopsy will be recommended.
- The single most important means to know if a lesion is suspicious is how long it has been there: if it’s more than a few weeks and it isn’t healing, it should be checked
Other symptoms of that might indicate oral cancer include:
- Abnormal taste in the mouth
- Chewing problems
- Mouth sores, lumps or white or reddish areas
- Pain with swallowing
- Speech difficulties
- Swallowing difficulty
- Tongue problems
- Weight loss
To help prevent oral cancers, you should be sure to:
- Avoid smoking or other tobacco use
- Have dental problems corrected
- Limit or avoid alcohol use
- Practice good oral hygiene
- Have oral cancer screenings regularly (part of your dental check up)
“What if I already have oral cancer?”
Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early, before it has spread to other tissues, the cure rate is nearly 90%.However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread when the cancer is detected. Most have spread to the throat or neck.
Approximately 25% of people with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
We recommend an oral cancer screening be performed twice a year.
As part of your dental maintenance visit, this is included and performed on all patients. So all you need to do is make sure to keep your scheduled re-care appointments with our dentists in the Scarborough and surrounding areas.