Detection of oral cancer
The outcomes associated with oral cancer can be significantly improved through routine screening and early detection. During your general dental check-up, Dr Crookes, Dr Jenkins or Dr Clark will thoroughly check your mouth for abnormalities. The death rate associated with oral cancer remains high because it is often discovered late in its development, generally when it has spread to another location like the lymph nodes in the neck. At this stage the prognosis is significantly worse. So even if you think your teeth are healthy, it’s still important to visit the dentist regularly to check for signs of oral cancer.
Signs and symptoms
You can look for signs of oral cancer yourself between visits by checking your lips and mouth for irregularities.
Signs and symptoms to be aware of include:
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- An ulcer, sore or blister that does not heal
- A thick or hard spot or lump
- A roughened or crusted area or spot
- Numbness, pain or tenderness
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together
- Difficulty swallowing or moving your jaw / tongue
- Swollen lymph glands
Causes of oral cancer
Tobacco and Alcohol Use
Prolonged tobacco use is the most prevalent cause of oral cancer, closely followed by heavy alcohol use. When both tobacco and alcohol are used together, there is a 15 times greater risk of developing oral cancer.
Extended sun exposure to your lips without a broad spectrum SPF can increase your risk of skin cancer. The instance of this type of cancer has been slowly declining through increased awareness.
Sexually Transmitted Virus
New research has identified the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV-16) as a growing cause of oral cancer. HPV is the same virus responsible for cervical cancer and can be sexually transmitted between partners. This link explains the increasing incidence (25%) of young, non-smoking oral cancer patients.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, make sure you visit your dentist as soon as possible.