Why We Screen for Oral Cancer

Early Detection Saves Lives!

It’s a six letter word that most of us don’t like talking about. Cancer.

While it might be a topic most patients wouldn’t expect to discuss when they visit with us, screening for it is actually an important part of the routine preventative dental care we offer you.

So, what is oral cancer? It’s a cancer that forms within the mouth or in the back of the throat. This area includes lips, gums, cheeks and tongue.

Stay Mindful of Oral CancerWhy do we screen for it? Because oral cancer is deadly. It’s not as prevalent as other cancers, like breast cancer, but it does have a higher death rate. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation the mortality rate is about 43%.

And why is that? Oral cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage.

The good news? We can help you screen for it. When oral cancer is detected at an early state the survival rates are 80% to 90%.

That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your annual dental exams and teeth cleanings. During these visits, we routinely look for any signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. In fact, both Dr. Gilbert and Trisha, our dental hygienist, have helped detect lesions and early signs of oral cancer on quite a few patients.

Not sure what symptoms to look for? Here are some more common signs to note.

Oral Cancer Symptoms to Keep An Eye On!

  • Any sore or ulceration that does not heal within 14 days.
  • A red, white, or black discoloration of the soft tissues of the mouth.
  • Any abnormality that bleeds easily when touched.
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
  • Loose teeth or poorly fitting dentures.
  • A lump or a rough spot of the skin or the lining of your mouth.
  • A sore under a denture, which even after an adjustment of the denture, does not heal.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • A lump or thickening that develops in the mouth.

Who Gets Oral Cancer?!

While an increasing percentage of oral cancers are discovered in patients with no known risk factors, oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women. Most oral cancers are related to tobacco use, alcohol use (or both), or infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

While April is the month associated with Oral Cancer Awareness, it’s probably a good idea to be aware of this cancer throughout the year, and to be mindful of its symptoms.

Oral cancer symptoms are often painless, or show little in the form of physical changes, so detecting it at an early stage can be difficult. Fortunately, we can help look and feel for possible early warning signs.

When it comes to oral cancer, early detection is important. It can definitely be life saving. If you’ve never had an oral cancer screening, have a family history of it, or you’re just overdue for a dental examine, please don’t wait to request a screening when you make your appointment with us.

Just give us a call at (425) 957-4700 to schedule your exam or request a visit with us online.

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