Any time you hear the word “cancer”, it evokes scary thoughts. Cancer is very dangerous and it can happen to anyone. Oral cancer is just as dangerous as any other type of cancer and is most prevalent in smokers and tobacco users. If you are a smoker or use other types of tobacco, you should be aware of the signs of oral cancer.
Oral cancer accounts for roughly two percent of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States. Approximately 36,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer each year and about 7,900 will die from the disease. On average, 61 percent of those with the disease will survive more than 5 years.
Regular dental check ups are very important and this is especially true if you use tobacco. When you visit your dentist on a regular basis, you will have your teeth cleaned and x-rayed. In addition to your regular exam, your dentist will also look for signs of tooth decay and for signs of oral cancer. If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, then you should visit your dentist right away.
Here is what you should look for:
Homogenous leukoplakia in the floor of the mouth in a smoker. Biopsy showed hyperkeratosis.
Non-healing sores, ulcers or lesions: This is one of the most common symptoms of oral cancer. When you get any type of sore or lesion in your mouth that does not heal on its one after a couple of days, there is reason for concern.
Mouth ulcers are very common, but it is not normal for them to last for more than a few days. If you find that you mouth is sore and red due to oral sores, then you should make an appointment with your dentist.
White or yellow patches in the mouth: If you look in your mouth and notice patches of white or yellow areas, this could be a sign of oral cancer. Red places in the mouth are more common, but you need to be especially wary of white or dark places in your mouth.
There are other signs of oral cancer, but these alone are not always reason for major concern, unless you have more than one sign. These signs include:
Loose teeth: any time you have tooth that is loose, you should see your dentist.
Bleeding gums: many people have bleeding gums and while this is not normal, if you have any of the other signs of oral cancer, it is something to worry about.
Rough patches: if you experience a rough patch of skin on your tongue or roof of your mouth and you do not remember burning your mouth on food, then this could spell trouble.
Bad breath: Smoking and tobacco causes bad breath, but if you have chronic bad breath, coupled with other oral cancer signs, you need to see your dentist.
Feeling of something caught in your throat: this could be a sign of cancer as well.
Oral cancer is a serious medical problem and if you experience any of these signs or symptoms, you need to schedule an exam with your dentist. Your dentist can perform an exam to determine whether or not you have oral cancer.
It is important to remember that oral cancer spreads quickly and many people will not survive more than five years after being diagnosed.
The 5-year survival rate for those with localized disease at diagnosis is 83 percent compared with only 32 percent for those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Early detection of oral cancer is often possible. Tissue changes in the mouth that might signal the beginnings of cancer often can be seen and felt easily.