Oral cancer is defined as a growth or sore within the oral cavity that does not go away or heal. Oral cancer is an umbrella term that can include cancers of the lips, cheeks, tongue, hard or soft palate, throat, sinuses, or floor of the mouth. Anyone can get oral cancer: however, individuals who are male, over the age of 40, and use tobacco or alcohol products regularly are at the highest risk. Overexposure to the sun can be an additional risk for developing lip cancer.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The most common symptom of oral cancer is red or white patches that have formed on the lips or inside the mouth. Persistent sores on the face, mouth, or neck that do not heal within two weeks or bleed easily must be checked. Swellings, lumps, or rough spots may also develop on the lips, gums, or other parts of the oral cavity and neck. Patients with oral cancer could have an unexplained increase in bleeding, numbness, or pain in any area of the mouth and face. Another warning sign is difficulty in either swallowing, wearing dentures, or chewing. Dramatic weight loss, earaches, or hoarseness could also be experienced in severe cases.
Dentists regularly conduct an oral cancer screening during check-ups and cleanings. The dentist will feel around the mouth for lumps or abnormal tissue changes in the neck, face and mouth. If he or she detects any suspicious tissue or tumors, the dentist will perform an oral brush biopsy. This painless test involves taking a small sample of the tissue to be examined for cancer cells. If the dentist is extremely concerned, they may suggest receiving a scalpel biopsy. This procedure requires local anesthesia to numb the surrounding area, as the dentist or oral surgeon removes the tissue. These tests are crucial for quick diagnosis, before the cancer can spread.
Similar to other cancers, oral cancer is often treated with surgery by a specialized oral surgeon, who will remove the cancerous tumor or growth. The patient will then undergo radiation or chemotherapy drug treatments to annihilate any other cancer cells that may be lingering within the oral cavity. Oral cancers are potentially life threatening, especially if they are not detected and treated promptly. If you suspect you have oral cancer, please call Redstone Dental Center to schedule a comprehensive oral cancer screening.