Oral cancer is a broad term that covers all cancers of the mouth, tongue, gums, and neck. Sometimes, it's referred to as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer. Despite often being painless, a dentist diagnoses oral cancer. Yet another reason to schedule regular dental checkups. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, almost 50,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. The good news is there is an 80 to 90% survival rate with early detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
To ensure as many people as possible get an early diagnosis, the month of April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. In April 2021, our nation observes its 22nd Annual Oral Cancer Awareness Month. In its third consecutive year, the Oral Cancer Foundation is bolstering its efforts through the Check Your Mouth™ initiative. The following information will teach you about the signs of oral cancer, the risk factors attributed to it, and how to book a screening.
What are the Different Types of Oral Cancers?
Several types of oral cancers can develop anywhere from the neck to the lips, including:
Mouth cancer: Cancer that develops in the mouth, in the cheeks, or on the lips.
Tongue cancer: This usually manifests as a sore on the tongue that does not heal. It can cause a sore throat and pain when swallowing.
Gum cancer: Often presents as white, red, or dark patches on the gums and is commonly mistaken for gingivitis.
Neck cancer: Usually develops as a lump or sore on the neck that does not go away. It causes pain when swallowing and may bring about changes to your voice.
Oropharyngeal cancers: This cancer grows in the oropharynx tissues and may cause a lump in the neck or a sore throat.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer has an 80-90% survival rate when diagnosed and treated early. Talk to your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:
• Oddly colored patches inside the mouth
• Loose teeth
• Pain swallowing
• Lump in the neck
• Numbness of lower lip and chin
• Difficulty wearing dentures
• A persistent earache
7 Risk Factors to Consider
Like tobacco and alcohol consumption, lifestyle choices can put you at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. In other words, risk factors may be anything that alters your probability of getting a disease like cancer. According to Cancer.org, "Having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that a person will get the disease. Not having any risk factors doesn't mean that you won't get it, either." These include:
1. Tobacco use
2. Heavy alcohol consumption
3. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
4. Sun exposure
6. Betel nut use
7. Family history of oral cancer
How is Mouth Cancer Screening Done?
Tell your dentist that you're interested in an oral cancer screening. Your dentist will inspect your face, neck, lips, and mouth to look for any signs of oral cancer. Next, you will stick out your tongue to check for swelling or abnormal color and texture. Your dentist will visually examine the following parts of your mouth for any discolorations or lesions:
• Back of throat
The dentist may have you rinse your mouth out with a special blue dye that's absorbed by unusual cells in your mouth, making it easier to detect cancer. If your dentist is concerned, they may schedule a follow-up appointment several weeks later to examine any changes. Further, your dentist might perform a biopsy, taking a small piece of tissue from the suspected cancerous area to send to a lab for testing.
What’s Different About VELscope® Vx?
VELscope® Vx is a wireless handheld device used for the early identification of oral abnormalities. In other words, it's an oral disease visualization device that detects anomalies months or even years before the naked eye identifies them. The blue light technology excites natural "fluorophores" in mucosal tissues. Velscope® Vx's proprietary filter makes fluorescence visualization possible by blocking reflected blue light and enhancing the contrast between normal and abnormal tissue. Equally important, it is painless and quick and only takes a few minutes. Remember, early detection yields the best results. A regular dental checkup could end up saving more than your smile!
DON'T WAIT. SCHEDULE YOUR SCREENING NOW.
Would you like to be screened for mouth or oral cancer? The Smile Generation Dental Plan® offers up to 60% savings on Mouth-Body Connection® procedures like oral cancer screenings. Find a dentist near you with The Smile Generation's online directory. Read patient reviews, browse dentist bios, and schedule an appointment. Click here to get screened.