includes oral cancer screenings as part of your regular dental checkups. This is very important to your overall health as your family doctor does not include oral screenings at your annual physicals. By sticking to your dental checkup schedule, you can ensure signs of abnormalities in your mouth and throat are not missed.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer develops when there is abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. It can appear as a lump, a sore that won’t go away, a growth or even discolouration on your tongue, lips, cheeks and gums. Oral cancer affected approximately 3,100 Canadians in 2003 with 1,090 of those cases resulting in death. Because oral cancer can be treated successfully with early detection, keeping your regular dental checkups is your best way to avoid the disease becoming life-threatening.
What are the signs and symptoms of oral cancer?
You can keep a look out for the same signs and symptoms we detect during your exams. If you notice any of the following signs, let us know as soon as possible:
- White or dark red patches in your mouth, on your lips or tongue
- Lumps or changes in the texture of the tissue in your mouth
- Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
- Sores or unusual patches that do not heal in your mouth or on your tongue or cheeks
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in taste or sensation on your tongue
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent sores appearing on your face, neck, or mouth
- Mouth, neck, tongue or lip sores that bleed easily
- Mouth, neck, tongue or lip sores that do not heal within 2 weeks
- Persistent soreness in your throat
- A feeling something is caught in your throat
- Difficulty chewing or speaking
- Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness or changes in your voice
- Ear pain
- A change in the comfort of your bite
- Dramatic weight loss
What are the risk factors for oral cancer?
As with all cancers, there are risk factors that can increase your chances of having the disease. Oral cancer is most common in those over 45. Other factors that may increase your risk include:
- Chewing tobacco
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Oral sex
- Sun exposure to your lips
- Poor diet
- Being male
- History of leukoplakia
- History of certain HPV strains
Diagnosis of Oral Cancer
You can check your mouth for abnormalities and contact us
if you are concerned about sores, bleeding or discolouration. We will also look for signs of oral cancer at your dental checkups. We will check for lumps or tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and oral cavity. We will also check your mouth for sores or discoloured tissue and other warning signs. If we suspect you could have oral cancer a biopsy will be taken and the appropriate imaging tests such as x-rays
, ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs will be scheduled.
Treatment of Oral Cancer
The severity, stage and location of the disease will be the most important factors in the treatment you will receive. Your age and health will also be considered. The most common treatments will involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery to remove the malignant tumour.
How can you prevent oral cancer?
While you cannot completely prevent oral cancer, but you can help reduce risk with the following:
- Schedule regular dental exams
- Speak to your doctor about how to quit smoking
- Stop using tobacco products
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Limit sun exposure
- Use lip balms and lipsticks containing UV protection
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
Oral cancer screenings will help in the early detection of oral cancer to ensure you receive immediate treatment. For more information please call (905) 878-8528.