Oral cancer affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, but with regular screenings and regular maintenance of your teeth and gums you can lower your risk for the dangerous disease.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer can develop in a number of different tissues in the mouth, primarily the lips, roof or floor of the mouth, back of the throat or salivary glands. Oral cancer, if not detected early, can be fatal, and depending on the severity when discovered patients could need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
What is an Oral Cancer Screening?
We offer oral cancer screenings in Berkeley, CA as part of every regular exam we perform, so you should be getting one every six months during your regular cleaning appointment. In the screening, our dentists will look closely through your mouth for any precancerous markers, including sores or discoloration. We will feel around for abnormalities such as lumps in your tissue. If an abnormality is discovered we may recommend a follow-up visit or perform a biopsy.
Benefits of Early Detection
The quicker your cancer is found the better your odds are of both surviving the cancer and preventing its spread to the lungs or other organs. Literally every day that a cancer goes undetected your prognosis is getting worse.
Who is at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Really, everyone is at some level of risk for oral cancer. But there are definitely some behaviors that put you at an advanced risk, primarily smoking or chewing tobacco. People who smoke cigarettes, cigars or with a pipe have an increased chance of getting mouth, throat or larynx cancer. And people who smoke in combination with heavy alcohol use increase their chances exponentially.
But there is no behavior riskier than using chewing tobacco. Studies have shown those who use smokeless tobacco are at a 50 times greater risk of oral cancer than non-users. People exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time are also at risk for oral cancer, specifically in the lips.
Signs of Oral Cancer
Most important of all, if you think you might have some signs of an oral cancer please call us right away at (510) 527-9564 to schedule an appointment. Here are some things to look out for at home that may be signs of oral cancer:
- Sores on the gums, lips, roof or floor of the mouth that bleed and do not heal quickly
- Patches of red or white on the tongue or gums
- Pain or numbness in the mouth with no other obvious cause
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing food