The Signs And Symptoms Of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat. Early detection plays a crucial role in the successful treatment of oral cancers. While individuals over the age of 45 are at the highest risk, it is important for everyone, regardless of age, to undergo oral cancer screening if they have experienced any of the following symptoms:
- Discoloured patches in the mouth or on the lips, including white or dark red patches.
- Presence of unfamiliar lumps or unusual changes in texture.
- Canker sores that do not heal, numb patches, or persistent bleeding.
- Unusual sensations in the tongue, changes in sense of taste, and difficulty swallowing.
The risk factors for oral cancer
Certain behaviours and conditions are associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. These include:
- Smoking or using tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
- Heavy or moderate alcohol consumption, particularly when combined with tobacco use.
- Possibility of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in the mouth.
- Excessive sun exposure, especially for individuals with a lifestyle that involves prolonged sun exposure.
- Poor diet or unhealthy eating habits.
- Family history of oral cancer.
- Oral cancer is more prevalent in men than in women.
- History of leukoplakia, which is characterized by the development of thick, whitish patches inside the mouth.
Prevention, Detection And Treatment Of Oral Cancer
Treatment will be planned on a case by case basis and will heavily depend on the severity, type and location of the suspected cancer.
Spotting early signs of cancer
The objective of an oral cancer screening is to detect cancer or precancerous conditions in the mouth at an early stage. During the examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and the area beneath your tongue for any red or white patches or concerning sores. Additionally, your dentist will palpate the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or unusual textures. They may also perform an examination of the external areas of your throat and neck to identify any abnormal lumps.
Diagnosis and treatment
In the event that signs of cancer are detected during your oral screening, further tests may be recommended, including a biopsy, where a small sample of the suspicious tissue is extracted for laboratory analysis. Additional imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRI scans may also be conducted. If confirmed tumours are present, treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may be necessary for their removal.
Prevention of oral cancer
You can take steps now to help prevent oral cancer later. To help reduce your risk of oral cancer see your dentist regularly for routine exams, stop using tobacco products and drink responsibly, be mindful of your exposure to direct sunlight and use U/V protective lip balms, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and veggies and during your routine brushing and flossing rituals, remember to check your mouth for signs or symptoms so that you can report any concerns to your dentist.
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to schedule an initial consultation & exam.
Your consultation will include an examination of everything from your teeth, gums and soft tissues to the shape and condition of your bite. Generally, we want to see how your whole mouth looks and functions. Before we plan your treatment we want to know everything about the health and aesthetic of your smile, and, most importantly, what you want to achieve so we can help you get there.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you possess any risk factors associated with oral cancer, it is advisable to request an oral cancer screening during your routine dental examination. In the event that you notice an abnormally coloured or textured patch in your mouth, or come across a lump or suspicious sore, it is highly recommended to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation. Taking prompt action and seeking professional attention can help ensure timely detection and appropriate management, if necessary.
During your dental appointment, your dentist will conduct a comprehensive examination of your oral cavity. This includes a thorough inspection of your lips, the interior of your mouth (including cheeks, gums, and all areas of your tongue), as well as careful palpation to identify any lumps or abnormal textures. Additionally, your dentist may perform an external examination by feeling your face, jaw, throat, and neck for any unusual lumps or signs of tenderness. These meticulous assessments help your dentist evaluate the overall health of your oral structures and detect any potential abnormalities.
Wash your hands with warm soapy water. In front of your bathroom mirror, you’ll want to examine the roof of your mouth, your lips, tongue and gums. Pull your top lip up and bottom lip down to see behind them. You may use a piece of gauze or a cotton pad to help you grip your tongue to check the sides and underside. Do your best to look at your gums, and use your fingers to feel the insides of your mouth. You’re looking and feeling for colour changes, lumps and bumps, unusual textures or tenderness. Let your dentist know if you have any sores that have not healed after two weeks.
Small flat patches that typically cause little to no pain and exhibit various colours such as red, white, grey, or yellow with red borders. These patches can manifest in any region of the mouth, including the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, and the roof of the mouth. As a general guideline, it is prudent to have any unusual appearance or sensation examined by your doctor or dentist. Seeking professional evaluation ensures proper assessment and appropriate management, if needed.