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Your Oral Health

Oral Cancer Screenings

Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer, accounting for 34,000 newly diagnosed cancers each year and 8,000 deaths. Less than half of all oral cancer patients are cured, because the disease usually is diagnosed in its later stages. You are more likely to develop oral cancer if you are a male over the age of 45.

...oral cancer may be genetically inherited, the risk increases for smokers, spit tobacco users, too much exposure to sunlight, and excessive alcohol consumption. 

While the potential for oral cancer may be genetically inherited, the risk increases for smokers, spit tobacco users, too much exposure to sunlight, and excessive alcohol consumption. Habits such as lip or cheek biting and ill-fitting dentures also heighten the risk of developing oral cancer.

The most prevalent oral cancer sites are the tongue, floor of the mouth, and the soft palate. But oral cancer may also be found on the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Many dental offices perform a free oral cancer examination during routine check-ups. Looking for certain indicators and palpating (feeling) for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your mouth, head and neck. A biopsy will be conducted on any suspected areas. Treatment for oral cancer is surgical removal of the lesion and is sometimes followed by radiation therapy.

In addition to regular check-ups, you can perform self-examination to look for early warning signs. Basically, look for anything out of the ordinary, especially a lump that increases in size; a sore that doesn't heal within two weeks; and/or changes in the appearance of soft tissue. Other early warning signs are persistent bleeding from the throat or mouth, difficulty swallowing, constant hoarseness, and numbness anywhere in the mouth. To perform your own oral cancer examination, start in one area and consistently follow a pattern of observation and palpation.

  1. Face and neck - using a mirror and your nose as the dividing line, look for lumps or swellings that appear on only one side. Look for size or color changes in moles or other growths. With your fingers, press the sides and front of your neck, feeling for lumps or tenderness.
  2. Lips - Pull your lip down or up to observe any sores or color changes. Run your lip between your thumb and forefinger, feeling for lumps or changes in texture.
  3. Cheeks, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth, tongue, and gums - Look for red, white or dark patches or open sores. Feel for lumps and bumps.

Oral cancer is painless in the early stages. With early discovery and treatment, survival rates greatly increase. If you detect any of these early warning signs, call or see your dentist immediately.

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