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Posted on: November 21, 2022
All About Oral Cancers
There are two categories of oral cancer: those taking place in the oropharynx and those taking place in the oral cavity.
The oropharynx is the throat’s middle region and includes the base of the tongue and the tonsils. The oral cavity includes your tongue’s front two thirds, the insides of your cheeks and lips, your lips, teeth, gums, and the roof of your mouth.
Through early detection of oral cancer, improved treatment outcomes may result. So, it’s in your best interests to visit your dentist regularly. Early detection may allow you and those you love to avoid becoming part of the 11,000 people each year whose lives are directly impacted by this relentless disease with only a 60 percent, five-year survival rate.
Where to Look For Oral Cancer
You can help detect oral cancer early by performing a self-exam for oral cancer regularly, such as once per month. Then if you find anything of concern, you can contact your dentist right away for a more thorough, professional exam.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the specific locations in your oropharynx and oral cavity where you can look for oral cancer.
- Soft portion of the roof of the mouth
- Hard palate
- Back of the throat
- Rear portion of the tongue
- Tongue’s base where it attaches to your mouth’s floor
- Cheek lining
- Front portion of the tongue
- Hard palate (roof of the mouth)
What Are Oral Cancer Symptoms?
If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms of oral cancer, especially if they’ve persisted for more than two weeks, call us at Manatee Dental of East Bradenton to set up an oral cancer screening with a Bradenton dentist immediately.
- Irritation or sores that won’t go away
- Patches of red or white
- Numbness, tenderness or pain in the lips or mouth
- A rough spot, thickening, small eroded areas, lumps, or crust anywhere in the mouth
- Trouble chewing or swallowing, talking or moving the jaw or tongue
- A difference in your bite, or how your teeth fit together when you shut your mouth
Some people with oral cancer symptoms complain about a sore throat or the feeling they have something caught in their throat. They may hear a hoarseness or some other change in their voice.
What the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
According to research, there are a variety of factors that raise the danger of acquiring oral cancers. Men have twice the likelihood as women of developing oral cancer. People who smoke or drink alcohol excessively are at greater risk of oral cancers, particularly if over 50 years of age; and people who both smoke and drink excessively are at even more significant risk.
Research has also linked the sexually transmitted infection HPV (the human papilloma virus) with higher risk of throat cancers at the rear of the mouth. Non-smokers with HPV and neck or head cancer have been found more likely to develop throat cancer as well. Neck and head cancer typically develops in HPV-positive people in the throat, particularly the folds of the tonsils and base of the throat. This makes them particularly hard to detect.
On the brighter side, those who have HPV-positive oral cancers have lower risk than those with HPV-negative oral cancers of death from the illness or of experiencing a recurrence of the disease following remission. Of course, as with any oral cancer–or any cancer at all, for that matter–early treatment is paramount for the most ideal outcomes. For this reason, make sure to get regular exams of your neck and head for signs of cancer as well.
How Can Your Dentist Help Spot Oral Cancers Early?
At your routine dental visit, your Bradenton dentist will inquire about any changes in your health history and ask if you’ve had any unusual new symptoms recently. Then, the dentist will examine your oral cavity, including the roof, soft and hard palates and floor of your mouth, the front and back parts of your tongue and your lips, gums, cheek lining, pharynx (throat) and tonsils. The dentist will also feel for any lumps or other abnormalities on your neck and jaw.
What If Your Dentist Discovers Something Suspicious
If, during an oral cancer screening, you dentist finds something suspicious to investigate further, the first and most important thing you can do is remain calm; don’t panic. Your dentist will not immediately be able to tell you for certain whether or not what he or she has noticed is cancerous. To ascertain that, the dentist may take a biopsy or refer you for cancer testing. Prior to suggesting further follow-up, your dentist may additionally decide to reexamine you after a week or two to determine whether those suspicious areas are healing of their own accord.
With the help of your dentist in Bradenton, you can devise the ideal strategy for preventing, diagnosing and treating oral cancer.
What Can You Do to Prevent Oral Cancers?
The main way to prevent oral cancer is to remain conscious of your risk factors for the disease. As you get older, especially if you’re a man, make sure you get oral cancer screenings more regularly, cut down on how much you smoke and drink alcohol and eat a healthier diet. All these changes in your habits can reduce your chances of oral cancer developing.
There is reason to believe the HPV vaccine could prevent neck and head cancers, which, in turn, can help prevent the throat cancers associated with them. Studies attempting to bear that theory out are currently underway and, as of yet, lack sufficient data to yield a reliable result.
If you’ve experienced oral cancer previously, you could have greater chances of experiencing it again. In that case, call your dentist in Bradenton to set up regular oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental exams.