Oral cancer is a serious problem in the United States. Each year, nearly 41,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and throat cancers. Like other forms of the disease, early detection by using oral cancer screening and treatment is important for reducing the number of treatment-related health problems. Unfortunately, because many people don’t receive their bi-annual oral cancer screening as they should, oral cancer has a five-year survival rate of only 64 percent.
The oral cancer screening process
Oral cancers can affect any part of your oral cavity, which includes the mouth and lips, tongue and area beneath the tongue, the hard palate, and the cheek lining. Your dentist may also check your throat for cancer when performing a Oral cancer screening. Oral cancer screenings are painless and only take a few moments. Your hygienist will examine your mouth visually and feel your jaw and neck to look for any signs of oral cancer.
It is best that you visit your dentist for routine cleanings and check-ups, typically every 3-4 months. This ensures that they can catch changes in your oral health quickly, making the cancer more easy to treat. You can also help by keeping track of any unusual signs and symptoms that linger for more than two weeks. Notify your dentist immediately if you notice anything unusual.
Symptoms of oral or throat cancer
The symptoms of oral or throat cancer can be deceiving, so it’s important to be aware of the signs. If you notice any of the following symptoms lingering on for more than a week or two, notify your dentist immediately:
- A sore spot or area of irritation that doesn’t go away
- White or red patches inside your mouth
- Numbness, pain, or tenderness in your lips and mouth
- A small eroded area or rough spot
- A thickening of an area or a lump
- Difficulty moving your tongue or jaw
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Changes in your bite
Factors that increase the risk of oral cancer
Researchers have identified a number of risk factors that can increase your chances of being diagnosed with oral or throat cancer. Patients who drink alcohol to excess or who smoke and are over 50 years old have the greatest risk of cancer. The human papilloma virus (HPV) has also been shown to be associated with oral and throat cancer in non-smoking adults as well. HPV-positive cancers are more difficult to detect than other oral cancers because they develop near the base of the tongue and around the tonsils. However, though they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, HPV-positive cancers have a better survival rate and lower risk of recurrence.
This information was provided by ADA. Find more information about Oral Cancer screenings here.