Oral cancer may not be as well known as other forms of cancer, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Oral cancer screenings are vital to detect any precancerous or cancerous conditions in the mouth before they progress to an advanced stage of the disease. An oral cancer screening is a quick procedure that involves visual and touch examinations to assess the inside of your mouth. Some dentists use additional tests, such as dye or ultraviolet light. If your dentist discovers any abnormal lesions, a small tissue sample can be collected and sent to the lab for more thorough testing.
Risks and Signs of Oral Cancer
Some people have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, sometimes at no fault of their own. Causes of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, dip and vaping
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Family history of cancer
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Significant sun exposure
- Poor diet
There are certain symptoms and signs of oral cancer to look for. Some of these include:
- Red or white spots or sores anywhere in the oral cavity
- A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal
- A lump, thickening, or rough spot
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
Surgical Treatment of Oral Cancer
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with oral cancer, there are several treatment options available to you. These include:
- Glossectomy: The removal of partial or larger portions of the tongue
- Mandibulectomy: The partial removal of the jawbone when a tumor is too close or attached to the bone
- Maxillectomy: The removal of the bones that make up the hard palate or nasal sinuses
- Reconstructive surgery: The transplantation of tissue from one area in your body, such as your forearm, thigh, or abdomen, to the affected area of your mouth
- Dental implants: An additional procedure that can be done during certain mouth surgeries, so that a separate surgery is not required
- Lymph node removal: Oral cancers often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck and can be removed during oral surgery. The purpose of this removal is to reduce the chance of the cancer returning in the future. Lymph node removal is commonly recommended for cancers that infect the tongue, floor of the mouth, or lower gums.
Talk to your dentist today about scheduling routine oral cancer screenings. You will have the best chance for a full recovery if oral cancer is detected early.