Oral Cancer Can Occur Anywhere in the Mouth

Signs and Symptoms that You Must Know

Mouth cancer is still on the rise in the United States. Among other characteristics, it spreads rather fast. This makes it something to watch for so that it can be caught early – which increases your cancer survival rates. In most cases, it is the dentist who will spot it first.

About Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancer, also called oral cancer, involves several types of cancer that can be found in the mouth. When cancer occurs in the throat, it is called oropharyngeal cancer.

Any kind of cancer is caused by rapid cell reproduction that is out of control. They are not normal cells and they do not function like cells normally do.

Oral Cancer Statistics

The number of oral cancer cases in the U.S. is growing each year. It is expected that there will be over 51,500 cases this year, and more than twice as many men as women will get the disease. About one-fifth of this number – 20 percent – will die from it.

The Oral Cancer Survival Rate

Because oral cancer typically spreads rapidly, your survival rate is greatly increased when it is discovered early. A diagnosis of oral cancer most often occurs at the average age of 62. After five years, the survival rate when it is discovered early is 83 percent. If cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the survival rate is just 39 percent.

The good news is that if oral cancer is caught early, there is a cure rate of around 90 percent. This should give you a good reason to lower your risks for it and to regularly see a dentist – who can spot it early.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

At the start of oral cancer, there often will not be any pain. This is one reason that it often is not discovered in the early stages. Some warning signs that you might look for include:

  • A red or white patch in your mouth

  • A sore throat that feels like something is caught in your throat

  • A mouth sore that does not heal

  • A lump in your neck

  • Mouth pain that does not go away

  • Changes in your voice

  • Numbness in your mouth or tongue

  • Difficulty when swallowing or chewing

  • Loose teeth

  • Unexplained weight loss.

Another symptom that you do not want to ignore is patches that are bright red and look velvety. Most of the time, about 82 percent, they are cancerous.

Risk Factors

The exact triggers of cancer are not known, but there are some things that definitely promote its growth. Oral cancer is often related to:

  • Tobacco – Tobacco of any kind is known to promote the development of mouth cancer. It is the number one risk factor. The nicotine reduces the effectiveness of your immune system in your gums by reducing the blood flow.

  • Alcohol – Drinking a lot of alcohol is known to lead to getting cancers of the mouth. If you smoke, too, your risk is more than doubled.

  • Bad Oral Care – A lack of proper care of your teeth and gums can lead to oral cancer in some cases.

  • Viruses – One notorious virus behind oral cancer is HPV-16. This is the same virus that often causes cancer of the cervix in women. Once it is in the mouth from oral sex, it can become active in some people after many years.

  • Poor Nutrition – A weak immune system from poor eating habits can lead to oral cancer.

  • Sun exposure – Being out in the sun a lot may lead to lip cancer.

  • Genetics – Your genes can also play a part in whether or not you get oral cancer, but having the gene certainly does not guarantee it.

When to See a Dentist

If you make regular visits to the dentist, the dentist would likely be one of the first people to see cancer. It is most often spotted during a regular dental cleaning when the dentist examines your mouth for oral cancer.

During the oral cancer screening, the dentist will feel for lumps in your neck and chin area. This is often one of the first symptoms. If detected, it is very important that you get medical treatment very soon.

You especially want to see a dentist for an oral exam if you have a sore in your mouth that does not heal after two weeks. The dentist can take a biopsy of any suspicious looking spots, and it will be sent to a lab for diagnosis. Remember that this disease can spread fast and getting treatment quickly could save your life. Many treatments are available.

Regular dental checkups are essential to detecting signs of mouth cancer in the early stages. You can get oral cancer screening on your next dental visit to the office of Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist. His dental offices are in the Carrollton, TX, and Grapevine, TX areas and they accept most dental health plans. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.