Protect Yourself with an Annual Oral Cancer Screening
This year alone, nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and many will not survive the next five simply because the disease was not caught until it was quite advanced. Early detection is absolutely essential to the successful treatment of oral cancer, which is why your dentist in West Seneca recommends that all adults should have at least one oral cancer screening per year. At Applegate Dental, we are happy to perform a screening as part of your regular checkups, but it is also important that you be able to recognize some of the early warning signs so you can take action right away.
The Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is that which affects the head and neck area (excluding brain cancer) and the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, salivary glands, throat, and sinuses. While oral cancer screenings with your dentist are a great way to keep you safe, it is also important that you contact your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Sores, swelling, lumps, or thick patches of tissue anywhere in your mouth and throat
- White or red lesions in your mouth that do not seem to heal
- A feeling that something is stuck in your throat
- Pain, numbness, or tenderness anywhere in your mouth
- Trouble moving your jaw, tongue, or issues speaking, chewing, or swallowing
- Loose teeth
- A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice
The Causes of Oral Cancer
While the exact cause of oral cancer is still unclear, there are certain factors that have a high correlation with the disease. Tobacco use (smoking or otherwise) and excessive alcohol use is extremely prevalent amongst people with oral cancer. In fact, according to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, up to 90% of those with oral cancer consume some form of tobacco.
Age seems to play a factor as well, as the majority of people with oral cancer are over the age of 40. However, even if you do not have these risk factors, it is still important to get a screening every year, because according to research, the biggest increase in oral cancer diagnoses is amongst young, healthy individuals. People who do not smoke or drink actually account for 25% of all new oral cancer diagnoses in the United States.
How an Oral Cancer Screening Works
An oral cancer screening is actually a very brief procedure that only involves a gentle tactile and visual exam performed by your dentist. They will look at your lips, gums, throat, and neck for any signs of cancerous or precancerous tissues, and they will also check your face for asymmetry. This typically only takes a few minutes. If they find anything that causes concern, they can arrange for you to have a biopsy to get a proper diagnosis. From there, they will be able to direct you on what to do next. When caught early, the survival rate for oral cancer is around 85%, so these screenings can make a huge difference in how the disease will affect a person’s life.
Oral cancer screenings are just one of the many ways our team strives to take care of you, and by coming to see us regularly, we can make sure you are never caught off guard by this disease. To learn more about how you can spot oral cancer at home, or to schedule an appointment and screening, contact us today.