The signs and symptoms of oral cancer
Oral cancer is characterized from abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. With early detection, oral cancers have a high rate of successful treatment. The people at the greatest risk for oral cancers are those over the age of 45 but regardless of your age, you should opt for oral cancer screening if you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms:
- Discolored patches in your mouth or on your lips including white, yellow or dark red in color.
- Unfamiliar lumps or unusual changes in texture.
- Canker sores that won’t heal, numb patches or persistent bleeding.
- Unusual feeling tongue, change in sense of taste and difficulty swallowing.
The risk factors for oral cancer
There are several behaviours and conditions that are associated with a higher risk of oral cancer. These include:
- Smoking or consuming tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco
- Heavy or moderately heavy consumption of alcohol (especially combined with tobacco)
- Possibility of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of the mouth.
- Excessive exposure to the sun; a lifestyle that includes lots of sun exposure.
- A poor diet or poor eating habits.
- Family history of oral cancer.
- Oral cancer is more common in men than in women.
- A history of leukoplakia (a thick, whitish-color patch that develops inside the mouth)
Prevention, detection and treatment of oral cancerTreatment will be planned on a case by case basis and will heavily depend on the severity, type and location of the suspected cancer.
Spotting early signs of cancer
The goal of an oral cancer screening is the early detection of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. During the exam, your dentist will look over the inside of your mouth and under your tongue for red or white patches or suspicious sores. Your dentist will also feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or odd textures and may also feel the outside of your throat and neck for lumps.
Diagnosis and treatment
If signs of cancer are detected during your oral screening you may be asked to undergo additional testing such as a biopsy (where a small piece of the suspicious tissue is removed for lab examination) or imaging tests like Xrays, ultrasounds, CT scans or an MRI. To remove confirmed tumours, surgery or chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be necessary.
Prevention of oral cancer
You can take steps now to help prevent oral cancer later. To help reduce your risk of oral cancer see your dentist regularly for routine exams, stop using tobacco products and drink responsibly, be mindful of your exposure to direct sunlight and use U/V protective lip balms, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and veggies and during your routine brushing and flossing rituals, remember to check your mouth for signs or symptoms so that you can report any concerns to your dentist.
Contact us today
to schedule an initial consultation & exam.
Your consultation will include an examination of everything from your teeth, gums and soft tissues to the shape and condition of your bite. Generally, we want to see how your whole mouth looks and functions. Before we plan your treatment we want to know everything about the health and aesthetic of your smile, and, most importantly, what you want to achieve so we can help you get there.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any of the risk factors for oral cancer it’s a good idea to ask for an oral cancer screening at your regular dental exam. If you have discovered an unusually colored or textured patch in your mouth or a lump or suspicious sore you’re encouraged to schedule an appointment to get it checked out.
Your dentist will examine your lips and the inside of your mouth including your cheeks, gums and all sides of your tongue. They will also carefully feel around for any lumps or unusual textures. The dentist may also feel your face, jaw, throat and neck for unusual lumps or tenderness.
Wash your hands with warm soapy water. In front of your bathroom mirror, you’ll want to examine the roof of your mouth, your lips, tongue and gums. Pull your top lip up and bottom lip down to see behind them. You may use a piece of gauze or a cotton pad to help you grip your tongue to check the sides and underside. Do your best to look at your gums, and use your fingers to feel the insides of your mouth. You’re looking and feeling for color changes, lumps and bumps, unusual textures or tenderness. Let your dentist know if you have any sores that have not healed after two weeks.
Small, usually painless, flat patches that may appear red, white, gray or yellow with red edges. These small patches can affect any area of the mouth including the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue and the roof of the mouth. As a good rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to have anything that looks or feels unusual checked out by your doctor or dentist.
The most common spot for oral cancer is lateral border of the tongue.