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Oral Cancer: Don’t Become A Victim!

  • April 1, 2016

 

April marks oral cancer awareness month, and at Fox Family Dentistry we like to take every chance we can to spread awareness of this serious disease. Oral cancer isn’t talked about nearly as often as it needs to be, and the resulting silence has long lead to high mortality rates and easily preventable problems.

Oral cancer has been notoriously difficult to diagnose, making it all the more worrying. The one positive in talking about oral cancer is how easily preventable most cases of it are. You still need to know all about it, though, which is why we’re writing today’s blog post.

Spotting Oral Cancer

Like we mentioned above, oral cancer can be difficult to detect. There’s a lot of soft tissue in your mouth that’s hard to get a good look at, and even when we can it doesn’t mean we’ll spot it. Unlike other forms of cancer, oral cancer doesn’t usually show many signs early on, making early detection difficult.

There are still plenty of signs, and we do everything we can to catch them at our Burke dentist office. Oral cancer screenings are a standard part of the dental exams we perform, so you’ll never have to worry about going undiagnosed if there’s something we can spot!

You still need to be aware of the signs on your own, though. It’s a good idea to perform regular self checks so that you don’t miss a critical early sign. We recommend doing an exam at home once a month using a dental mirror and a small flashlight. Be sure to check all the surfaces of your mouth – especially under your tongue.

While you’re performing a self check keep an eye out for the following:

  • Red, white, or unevenly speckled spots
  • Raised velvety patches (usually white)
  • Bumps, lumps, or swelling
  • Ulcerous spots
  • Sores that last longer than two weeks
  • Crusty sores on your lips, face or neck
  • Unexplained oral bleeding

Visual signs are an essential part of recognizing oral cancer, but don’t take the non-visual for granted. There are a lot of symptoms that, while not noticeable to the naked eye, are still just as telling and dangerous.

  • A chronic sore throat
  • A feeling that something is stuck in your throat
  • Pain in your tongue, mouth, face, or neck
  • Numbness in your tongue, mouth, face, or neck
  • Pain in your ear without any loss of hearing
  • Hoarseness when speaking
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty chewing or moving your tongue
  • A change in your bite or the fit of your dentures

There are plenty of cases where oral cancer might not be visible, yet knowing what you’re experiencing can make diagnosis easier and happen faster. Don’t ignore any of these invisible signs of oral cancer – your life could depend on it.

Who Gets Oral Cancer?

As we mentioned above, oral cancer is usually avoidable with good lifestyle choices and preventive care. But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop it without being an at-risk patient. While you might not meet many of these criteria for risk you still need to keep an eye on your oral health!

At-risk categories include:

  • Tobacco smokers, who are six times as likely as nonsmokers to develop oral cancer
  • Smokeless tobacco users, who are 50 times as likely to develop it!
  • Heavy drinkers, who are at the same risk level as smokers
  • People who both smoke and drink – their chances are actually compounded!
  • People who spend a lot of time in the sun, especially when younger. These patients are especially prone to developing cancer on their lips.
  • Patients who don’t eat healthy, especially those who don’t get enough fruits and vegetables.
  • Human papillomavirus carriers, particularly those who carry strain HPV-16 or -18. These are the same strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
  • Anyone with a family history of cancer – and it doesn’t have to be oral.

As you can see, quite a few of these risk factors are easily avoided. We encourage you to quit smoking, cut down on drinking, and eat a good diet – these are the easiest ways to avoid oral cancer!

Let Us Keep You Healthy

Oral cancer is deadly to many people, and as the years have gone on things have just become slightly better. The key to avoiding death at the hands of this devastating form of cancer is early detection. Don’t become a statistic because you didn’t know what to look for!

For the perfect preventive care give Fox Family Dental a call today. We’re ready to see you at our Burke office for all your preventive needs! Give us a call at 703-260-1677 or request an appointment online. We’ll see you soon!

And keep a look out for our oral cancer quiz coming later this month. You can test what you’ve learned here and find out how aware you are!