Oral cancer is a serious disease that particularly affects middle-aged men. Still, anyone could develop this condition. If you are worried that you may have it, your dentist can help. To calm your fears, it is helpful to get regular cancer screenings. The dentist can do this during one of your semiannual routine wellness exams.
An overview of oral cancer
When a person has cancer of any kind, cells grow uncontrollably and invade tissue in the area. This can cause significant damage. With oral cancer, a person will develop mouth sores that stay despite efforts to get rid of them. This condition can affect all parts of the mouth, including cheeks, the tongue, the throat and the roof of the mouth. The disease can be serious and even deadly without fast, effective treatment.
What the disease looks like
There are various degrees of oral cancer and it can show up in different ways. One of the most common is the appearance of lumps on the lips or gums. Some people have red or white patches in the mouth. There may also be frequent bleeding. Another sign of this type of cancer is a loss of feeling in certain places in the mouth. The person may also have pain and discomfort throughout the mouth or face.
Like other types of cancer, certain people are more prone to getting oral cancer than other individuals are. Men over the age of 50 are the most common patients. Also, using tobacco will increase a person’s chances of getting the disease. Chewing tobacco, especially, raises the risk of the condition in the cheek, gums and lips. Alcohol use and family history may also play a role in developing this form of cancer. Another factor to look out for is prolonged exposure to the sun.
Looking for cancer in a patient’s mouth
An oral cancer screening should take place at every wellness checkup. During these appointments, the dentist examines the patient’s teeth and gums for abnormalities. The dentist should also look for signs of growths and sores to indicate the presence of cancer. These screenings are important even for healthy people.
Screening in at-risk patients
When the dentist is aware that a patient uses smokeless tobacco, drinks alcohol excessively or has a family history of oral cancer, the screenings may take place more often. To confirm a suspicion of the disease, the dentist will remove tissue from the patient’s mouth and do a biopsy. The earlier the dentist can identify this condition, the greater the chance the person has of successfully treating it.
Keep your health in mind
Even if you do not currently have any problems with your teeth or gums, it is a good idea to screen for this type of cancer. Oral cancer can be painful and even life-threatening. Make sure your dentist screens for it every time you go in for a wellness examination. You should speak to your dentist today if you are concerned about your risk of developing this disease.
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