THE IMPORTANCE OF ORAL CANCER SCREENINGS
Every time you visit your dentist in Wake Forest, NC you are probably more worried about the dentist saying you have cavities and not thinking about cancer. But during a yearly dental exam, among the things your dental practitioner is checking for are signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer is considered abnormal cells in your lips, tongue, gums, soft tissues inside the mouth, tonsils, salivary glands, esophagus, and throat. Throughout this article from our staff at DentalWorks - Wake Forest, we discuss common symptoms of oral cancer, what may put you at higher risk, the way a dentist performs an oral cancer screening, and treatments for oral cancer.
SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CANCER
Symptoms of oral cancer might not be painful or obvious, therefore it's very important to get routine oral cancer screenings from a dentist in Wake Forest, NC. A few of the signs of oral cancers your dentist will check for include:
- WHITE OR RED PATCHES
A visible sign of cancer is either white or red spots in the mouth, particularly on the tongue or gums. These patches frequently have a velvety feel.
- RECURRING SORES
Sores that grow near your lips or in your mouth that do not heal in fourteen days are a sign of cancer. They can bleed easily therefore it's important to get them assessed and treated.
- TROUBLE USING YOUR JAW OR TONGUE
A lump or tumor in your mouth can make it tough to eat, talk, or even swallow. You may also feel pain or soreness when you move your mouth.
- SWELLING AND LUMPS
Cancer may lead to inflammation and lumps in your throat and mouth. In an oral cancer exam, your dentist will check for lumps in your throat and inflammation around your jaw.
- PERSISTENT SORE THROAT
Oral cancer in the throat can lead to a chronic sore throat (even if you don't have a cold) or a sense that food is caught at the back of the throat. You may also have a change in your voice.
RISK FACTORS FOR ORAL CANCER
Everyone can develop oral cancer; however, there are particular things that can make someone more likely to develop cancer inside their mouth, lips, and throat.
- CHEWING TOBACCO
While chewing tobacco is healthier for those around you, it still puts you at greater risk for oral cancer. Putting the tobacco straight in your mouth makes you more likely to get gum, cheek, and lip cancer.
Any form of smokable tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, along with many others) raises your chance of developing oral cancer. Additionally, those who reside with you or spend a lot of time near you are at greater risk of developing cancer via second-hand smoke.
Heavy drinkers (consuming 21 or more alcoholic beverages per week) are at greater risk of getting oral cancer. Heavy drinking and tobacco use make you six times more likely to get oral cancer.
Also associated with cervical cancer, a type of HPV (the human papilloma virus) has become connected to oral cancer. HPV 16, an STD (sexually transmitted disease), raises your risk of getting oropharyngeal cancers in the tonsils, throat, and back of the mouth.
Even though most of your mouth is protected from harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays, your lips aren't. Routine exposure to sunlight and other sources (such as tanning beds) may lead to skin cancer on your lips. To prevent skin cancer, use UV protection (like hats and sunscreen). Look for lip balms that have SPF 15 or higher to protect your lips.
SCREENING FOR ORAL CANCER
An important part of an annual dental exam is your oral cancer screening. At DentalWorks - Wake Forest, our dental practitioners complete an oral cancer screening on every one of our Wake Forest, NC patients throughout their examination. In this part of the examination, your dentist will conduct a physical and visual inspection of your throat and mouth to search for signs of oral cancer. Once they have put on a new pair of gloves, then your dentist will begin with assessing areas within your mouth (underneath your tongue, your cheek lining, and the back of your throat) to search for abnormal signs or growths. They'll also feel your jaw, chin, and neck to look for swelling and lumps. While a physical and visual examination performed properly is usually sufficient to discover abnormalities, a few dental clinics also utilize oral cancer detection tools, such as a special mouth rinse or blue light. If your dental practitioner is worried, they will typically refer you to an oncologist for diagnosis and treatment.
TREATING ORAL CANCER
If your dental practitioner discovers indications of oral cancer, then they'll consult with another physician. To diagnosis oral cancer, the physician will probably recommend a biopsy that assesses a few cells from the mouth to look for cancer. If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, your doctor will go through your treatment choices and create your treatment program.
Radiation therapy utilizes localized gamma rays, x-rays, protons, electron beam to prevent the cancerous cells from growing. The radiation therapy can be aimed directly at the area impacted by cancer, which restricts side effects.
Surgery can be performed to eliminate as much of the cancerous region as possible. Based upon the positioning of the oral cancer, this may be a very simple procedure or a lengthier operation. Cancer surgery is often followed by chemotherapy or radiation to address any residual cancer.
A set of powerful medications, chemotherapy may be used to impede the development of cancer or kill the cancerous cells. Based on the type of chemotherapy drugs used, you might have different side effects throughout your treatment.
ASK YOUR DENTIST TO PERFORM AN ORAL CANCER SCREENING
Be sure you are visiting a dentist in Wake Forest, NC at least one time annually to get a dental exam with an oral cancer screening. At DentalWorks - Wake Forest our staff assesses every patient for symptoms of oral cancer in their routine appointments. Early identification and treatment may significantly boost your chances of beating cancer so be certain that you and your loved ones are scheduling routine appointments to get oral cancer screenings at a dentist in Wake Forest, NC.