Early Detection of Mouth Cancer Can Save Lives

Why You Need Regular Dental Appointments

For most people, the discovery that they have oral cancer is not a good one. Since most oral cancer is not discovered until it has reached the advanced stages, this news is rarely welcome. With regular dental cleanings and oral cancer screenings, it may have been caught in the early stages – making a difference in the outcome.

Oral Cancer Is Increasing

Mouth cancer is one cancer that had been decreasing in the overall population until rather recently. A new type of oral cancer has changed that, however, and now the oral cancer statistics are increasing again. Last year, there were expected 51,400 cases, but in 2019, it is expected that there will be 53,000 cases of oral cancer incidence. 

The reason for the growth in the number of cases is that many of them are caused by oral HPV. The culprit is HPV-16, which is also behind cancer of the cervix in women. This particular STD can remain dormant for over 30 years and show absolutely no symptoms. 

A Test

A test was conducted in Kerala, India, to determine whether or not oral cancer screening over the long-term would be beneficial. The test involved more than 96,500 people who were all over 35. The experiment was conducted over a 15-year period.

The subjects in the test were divided into several groups and each group was screened at different times. Those that were screened had screenings in one, two, three, and four rounds and a control group of around 44,000 people received just one round of screening. 

Overall, it was determined that there was a 12 percent reduction in the number of people who died from oral cancer. The researchers did not see this number as being significant, but another number was. They saw that there was a 24 percent reduction among people who used tobacco and/or alcohol. 

In the same test, the researchers also observed another significance of ongoing testing using oral cancer screening. The difference this time was in those who continued with the screening program. Ongoing screenings among those who used tobacco and/or alcohol had a 38 percent reduction in the number of cases of oral cancer and throat cancer, and there was a reduction of 81 percent in oral cancer mortality. 

These statistics clearly reveal the benefit of a public oral cancer screening program that is offered nation-wide. Not only should dentists conduct the screenings, but medical doctors as well, particularly in people who are high risk for it. 

Early Detection Beneficial

Oral cancer typically is a fast-spreading disease. Most of the time, when a diagnosis is given, it has already reached advanced stages. If cancer can be detected by oral screening in the early stages, many lives could be saved. In some cases, such as with red and white patches in the mouth, it has not yet become mouth cancer and the cancer stage may even be prevented.

HPV and Oral Cancer

HPV-16 related cancers in the oral cavity have been increasing because of oral sex. An individual can easily be infected with an HPV through oral sex. Since HPV can go without symptoms for years, many people have it that are not even aware of it. 

In most cases, the HPV virus will be destroyed by the body in less than two years. For some reason, a few people do not have the immune system to naturally get it out of their system. This means that they could be passing the HPV virus to other people and not even know it. The CDC estimates that about 10 percent of men have oral HPV, and about 3.6 percent of women have it. In America, this means there is about 26 million people on any day. Out of this number, it is believed that 2,600 will be infected with HPV-16.

Oral HPV is behind most cases (70 percent) of cancer of the throat, called oropharyngeal cancer. Researchers are not sure if other factors are also necessary to work with the HPV or not, such as smoking or drinking.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

There are several oral cancer symptoms you will want to watch for if you are at high risk. The first two symptoms are the most common, but both occurred in only about half the cases. They include:

  • A persistent sore throat

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Hoarseness

  • A sore that does not go away

  • Lymph nodes that are swollen

  • Weight loss with no explanation. 

When to See a Dentist

The mouth can experience many changes. Sores of one kind or other are not very unusual. If a dentist could watch for changes over time it may be beneficial because they could more easily be noticed. This will happen if you get regular oral cancer screenings. When you get one or more mouth sores that persist for more than two weeks, it is time to see a dentist.

If you believe that you have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, or if you believe you have mouth sores that might be early signs of oral cancer, you can get an oral cancer screening and teeth cleaning from Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. The screening normally takes about a minute. Dr. Vadivel provides dental care of all kinds for the entire family at his offices in the Carrollton, TX, and Grapevine, TX areas. Nearly all dental health plans are accepted. You can also schedule long term regular oral cancer screenings or get a consultation. Contact his office today for more information at (817) 756-8578.