The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

One person is answering question about oral cancer.

While it can be scary to think about cancer, it’s essential to know the facts about oral cancer – and even more important to get your oral cancer screening. Oral cancer is a broad term for a group of cancers that affect the mouth, neck, throat and lips. Common oral cancers include gum cancer, hard palate cancer and mucosal melanoma. Nearly 54,000 people in the US are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, accounting for 3% of cancer diagnoses annually. An earlier diagnosis means better, faster treatment and recovery. Below, the experts at Elkhart Periodontics and Implants explore oral cancer and why you should get your screening!

Facts About Oral Cancer

Causes of Oral Cancer

Causes of oral cancer include HPV infection, tobacco and alcohol use, and frequent sun exposure. Some people are also at risk because of a family history of oral cancer.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Difficulty speaking, chewing or swallowing. 
  • Loss of feeling (numbness) in your tongue or mouth.
  • Ear or jaw pain.
  • A sore throat.
  • Red or white patches in the mouth, on the tongue or in the throat.
  • Chronic, unexplained bad breath.
  • Unintentional weight loss.

Who Gets Oral Cancer

Anyone, at any age, can get oral cancer. However, it is more common in adults over the age of 40. It is also more common in men, people who take immunosuppressive drugs and people with poor nutrition.

How to Prevent Oral Cancer

There are lots of ways to prevent oral cancer! The best ways to prevent oral cancer are to stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. 

How to Diagnose Oral Cancer

A doctor, dentist or periodontist can diagnose oral cancer via a physical examination. If necessary, they may also recommend lab testing on mouth tissue. An oral cancer screening is simple and painless. Your dentist or periodontist will look inside your mouth and throat for signs of cancer, ask if you’ve experienced any symptoms and may feel your throat and neck for lumps. 

How to Treat Oral Cancer

The treatment for oral cancer depends on the type of cancer and how early it’s diagnosed. The earlier oral cancer is diagnosed, the more straightforward treatment can be. Typically, treatment includes radiation therapy, surgery or chemotherapy. For cancer diagnosed later, patients might need an advanced combination of treatment options.

Why You Need an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is highly survivable, especially when diagnosed early. That means the earlier oral cancer is spotted, the more likely you are to have a successful treatment and a long, healthy life. It’s also important to remember that not everyone who develops oral cancer will have the above risk factors – meaning that some people will develop it without a known cause. That makes oral cancer screenings vital to your health and well-being.
While there’s no standard cancer screening guideline, experts generally agree that people between the ages of 20 and 40 should get an oral cancer screening every three years, and people over 40 should get one yearly. Oral cancer exams are a quick, painless way for you to protect your health. So schedule your oral cancer exam today at Elkhart Periodontics and Implants!

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