Posts for tag: oral cancer
No one wants to hear the word “cancer.” But thanks to advances in detection and treatment, the disease increasingly can be stopped in its earliest stages when it's most treatable and outcomes are most favorable. Oral cancer accounts for a relatively small 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women, but early detection rates are lagging. Our office screens for oral cancer as part of your regular checkups. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help you monitor as well.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and on the floor of the mouth),
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Most oral cancers are preceded by surface changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. In the “precancerous” stage, white or red patches start forming and a non-healing ulcer may appear. The most common locations on the tongue for this to occur are on the sides and underneath on the floor of the mouth. Lip cancers typically develop on the lower lip, usually in people with a history of sun exposure. There has often been prior damage at the site such as scaling and crusting.
Be aware that oral cancers can be mistaken for cold and canker sores, ulcers, minor infections, and even irritations caused by biting or certain types of food. If lesions don't heal within two or three weeks, there's a higher likelihood that they are cancerous.
An in-office examination includes the following:
- visual inspection of face, lips, neck and mouth;
- inspection of sides and underneath of tongue and floor of mouth using gauze to gently manipulate the tongue;
- palpation of the floor of the mouth, sides of neck and glands to detect unusual lumps; and
- an “open wide and say ‘Aah’” examination of the back of your throat.
There are some risk factors for oral cancer that can't be controlled, such as a family history, age and race. But awareness, monitoring for potential signs and seeking prompt attention are always key ingredients in protecting your oral health!
If you would like more information about oral cancer detection, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
Often perceived as a cancer that only affects older adults who have a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use, oral cancer is now on the rise among younger adults as well. New research has found a link between oral cancers, and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a disease that is primarily spread through oral sex.
Importance of Screening: If you're concerned about oral cancer, rest assured that our office routinely carries out a cancer screening exam on every patient. We have several ways to painlessly detect abnormal tissues in their earliest stages. In addition, please contact our office if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
- White and/or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
- A bleeding or ulcerated sore in the mouth
- A sore anywhere in your mouth that doesn't heal
- Persistent difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
Although all of these symptoms can also be signs of less serious problems, be sure to alert our office if you notice any of the above changes.
Prevention: you can take a proactive role in preventing oral cancer by:
- Conducting an oral self-exam at least once a month. Use a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of your gums, the roof of your mouth, and the lining of your cheeks.
- Scheduling regular exams in our office. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams every three years for people over age 20 and annually for those over age 40.
- Refraining from smoking or using any tobacco products and drinking alcohol only in moderation.
- Eating a well balanced diet.
- Practicing safe sex.
When it comes to your oral healthcare, we strive to provide state-of-the-art care along with education to both our patients and community. One way we do this is by taking a moment to answer some of the questions we are most often asked about a certain topic. And one topic that almost always ignites questions is the subject of lumps and bumps in the mouth.
Help! I just found a small lump in my mouth — what should I do?
Not to alarm you, but your first priority is to contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment so that we can review it. Most often, we will know what it is by taking a history, knowing how long it's been there and what it looks like. Depending on what we find, we may want to take a biopsy so that we can determine exactly what it is and how we need to treat it.
What is involved in having a biopsy performed?
A biopsy is a normal and routine procedure that is used to definitively diagnose and confirm exactly what the abnormal lump, bump or other tissue is. It is typically performed with local anesthesia so that a small tissue sample can be removed without any pain for examination under a microscope. Depending on the size of the wound, it may require two to three sutures (stitches), leaving a flat and flush surface that heals in a few days to a week. The procedure usually lasts between 10 and 15 minutes with the lab results processed within a few days.
Does this mean I have cancer?
No, the chances are slim that you actually have cancer. However any change or sore in the mouth that does not heal in a week or two should be evaluated by a dentist and if necessary biopsied. If it is pre-cancerous and removed, it could save your life. The most important fact you need to remember is that no one can tell for sure what the abnormal tissue growth is until an expert in oral pathology (“patho” – disease; “ology” – study of) examines it under a microscope. While it is human nature to be concerned, until you have the facts, you are suffering needlessly.
To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Common Lumps and Bumps In The Mouth.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your specific questions so that we can put your mind at ease.