How Often Should I Be Screened for Oral Cancer?
When our patients come in for their free consultations, our team of professional denturists are looking for more than just tooth decay, gum disease, or bacterial infections. One of the most important parts of our oral examination involves looking for oral cancer.
Oral cancer occurs when cells on or in our tongue, lips, mouth, and throat grow out of control. More than 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. It’s much more common in men — nearly 70% of oral cancer patients are men.
Like some other forms of cancer, oral cancer is quite treatable when it’s detected in the early stages.
Regular check ups are one of the best ways to detect oral cancer early on and avoid complications down the road. Oral cancer screenings are quick and painless — they can be completed as part of your routine, yearly checkups or on an appointment basis if the patient is concerned.
In this article, we’ll examine a few of the early signs of oral cancer, individuals who may be at risk, and some steps you can take to minimize your risk.
What Are The Early Signs of Oral Cancer?
Knowing the symptoms of oral cancer can lead to earlier detection which makes it much easier to treat. Often, it comes in the form of sore, painful, or discolored patches of tissue in your mouth. Other symptoms may not be immediately obvious.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- An open sore in your mouth that refuses to heal
- Dark, red or white patches in your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Numb spots on your tongue or mouth
- Sore throat that doesn’t go away
- Swelling in your mouth, throat, and/or jaw.
- For denture wearers, your denture may become painful to put in or remove.
- Changes in your voice
- Weight loss
Oral cancer can manifest itself in any one or combination or the symptoms listed above. If you notice these any of these symptoms and they persist, it may be time to get an oral cancer screening.
Who Is At The Highest Risk for Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is quite rare in infants, children, and young adults. The risk increases with age and is highest after the age of 45. As we mentioned above, men have a higher risk of oral cancer than women.
Tobacco users are at the highest risk of oral cancer. All types of tobacco and usage methods are linked to a higher risk of developing oral cancer — whether the patient smokes cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or uses chewing tobacco.
Heavy drinkers are also tied to a higher risk of oral cancer. When alcohol is consumed with tobacco, the risk is even further increased.
People with human papillomavirus (HPV) have an increased risk of developing cancer in the back of the mouth and throat.
Prolonged sun exposure is associated with a higher rate of lip cancers.
What Can I Do To Minimize My Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to reduce the chances of developing oral cancer in your lifetime.
Quitting tobacco use is one of the best ways to significantly reduce your risk. Most oral cancers are directly linked to tobacco use — the earlier you quit, the better.
Reducing alcohol consumption is another excellent way to minimize risk. For women, try to limit yourself to 1 drink per day. Men should reduce their drinking to 2 drinks or less per day.
Lastly, ensure that you stay on top of your oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist regularly. As we mentioned above, oral cancer screenings are quick, easy, and painless.
Do you have more questions about oral cancer? Our professional team at the Denture & Implant Centre can clear up any concerns you might have. Contact our Red Deer offices today to schedule an appointment with one of our friendly denturists.