When you visit your dentist, part of the standard check-up includes a screening for cancer. Any unusual growths, lumps, or lesions could be an early symptom of oral cancer, and should be examined and diagnosed. In many cases, the dentist is the first person to notice the issue, and is able to ensure treatment begins promptly.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
As with many types of cancer, the symptoms of oral cancer often start small, and can go unnoticed until the disease has spread. During your regular dental appointments, your dentist will screen for any symptoms that could indicate a developing problem. These symptoms can include:
- Unusual lumps or growths in the mouth
- Lesions in the tongue or gums
- Spots on the tongue, gums, or other soft tissues
- Thickening of the cheek
- A feeling that something is constantly stuck in your throat
- Numbness in the mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms, and they don’t disappear after a few days, consult with your dentist to have them evaluated. As with any form of cancer, the earlier oral cancer is diagnosed, the more likely your treatment will be successful. In addition, earlier treatment is generally less invasive than treatment for later stages of cancer.
If you have any risk factors for oral cancer, you should be aware of them and watch for any possible symptoms. Risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, sun exposure, age, and a family history of cancer.
Treatment for Oral Cancer
If your dentist suspects oral cancer, she’ll take a biopsy of possibly affected tissue and have it analyzed for malignant cells. After a diagnosis, if cancer is detected, you’ll move to consideration of treatment options.
Treatment for oral cancer is similar to other cancer treatments. In early stages, the cancer is easier to treat, and could be removed with simple surgery. Other treatment options include chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery becomes more extensive and more invasive as cancer spreads through the mouth. It can affect both the soft tissues and the jaw and facial bones. Removal of any cancerous tissue—including bone—is usually necessary for advanced cases.
Are you overdue for a dental checkup? Contact us at Crosspointe Dental & Orthodontics today!