Everything You Need To Know About Oral Cancer

Everything You Need To Know About Oral Cancer

November 30, 2018

By: Suzanna McAninley, DMDmouth cancer facts

Many people think that oral cancer is only caused by smoking and using tobacco. Unfortunately, this is not always true. The majority of people diagnosed with oral cancer over the age of 50 have been tobacco users; about 75%. There is a growing number of cases being diagnosed very year where the patient has never smoked in their life. These oral cancers are thought to be caused by Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer – specifically HPV16.

Alcohol and tobacco have a synergistic effect when it comes to cancer. If you smoke or use tobacco and drink alcohol you have a 15 times greater risk of developing oral cancer versus someone that does not use tobacco or drink alcohol. Smoking tobacco usually takes decades to cause cancer in cells, but most people don’t stop and think about how long they have really been smoking. I have some patients that have stopped smoking, but they smoked for 30-40 years; ever since they were a young kid.

Every time you visit the dentist for an exam, your dentist should be performing an oral cancer screening. Your dentist will carefully look around your mouth to see if there are any areas that look concerning for cancer. This might involve sticking your tongue out and looking under your tongue, feeling your lips for bumps and even looking down your throat. We will also palpate the lymph nodes on your neck to see if any nodes are tender or hard. Your hygienist will also perform an oral cancer screening at your cleaning appointments.

Oral cancer is difficult for patients to notice because it usually starts off as painless with minimal changes to the look of the tissue in your mouth. However, your dentist is trained to know what signs of look for. Sometimes it starts as what you might think is a cut or abrasion in your mouth that just won’t heal. Usually the rule of thumb to follow is that most cuts in the mouth will heal within 2 weeks. If something is taking longer than 2 weeks to heal it might be a good idea to have your dentist check it out. Other signs of oral cancer can be a lump forming in your mouth or neck, difficulty speaking or swallowing and any numbness in the facial reason that persists.

Once your dentist checks out an area of your mouth and believes that it might be suspicious for oral cancer, they will either send you to a specialist that performs biopsies or they will do the biopsy themselves. The biopsy involves cutting out a portion of the suspicious area and sending it to a pathology lab that can identify what cells make up that sample. It usually takes about 2 weeks for biopsy results to come back to the dentist. If the results come back cancerous, your dentist will send you to a specialist that can help you along the path of treatment and recovery.

Oral cancers are becoming more commonplace in patients; even in those they don’t smoke or drink alcohol. This means it is even more important for patient’s to have a regular exam and check up with their dentist. It might mean the difference between life and death if they can catch oral cancer in the beginning stages.

For more oral cancer facts and information, visit the oral cancer foundation website.

Bell Harbour Dental is a family owned, patient-first downtown Seattle dentist located in Belltown. Check us on out Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, or contact us today to boost your dental health today!

©2024 Bell Harbour Dental | Privacy Policy | Web Design, Digital Marketing & SEO By Adit