Oral cancer is a serious condition which can affect different parts of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment, making it important to recognize the signs and symptoms which may indicate the presence of oral cancer.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Persistent Mouth Sores – Ulcers or sores that don’t heal within two weeks can be an early sign of oral cancer. These sores might be painless initially but can cause discomfort as they progress.
Red or White Patches – Red or white patches in the mouth, on the tongue, or on the lining of the cheeks can indicate abnormal cell growth. These patches might be smooth or slightly raised and can sometimes be mistaken for canker sores or oral thrush.
Changes in Voice or Speech – Persistent hoarseness or changes in voice quality that last for an extended period without an apparent cause could be a sign of oral cancer. Difficulty in swallowing or speaking might also be observed.
Difficulty Chewing or Swallowing – Feeling pain or discomfort while chewing or swallowing, along with a sensation of something caught in the throat, could indicate a problem in the mouth or throat area, including potential oral cancer.
Numbness or Pain – Persistent numbness, pain, or tenderness in the mouth, lips, or throat that doesn’t resolve or has no clear cause should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Lump or Thickening – The presence of a lump, thickening, or rough spot in the mouth, throat, or neck area can be a cause for concern. These abnormalities might be felt with the tongue or fingers.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Tobacco Use – Smoking, chewing tobacco, or use of smokeless tobacco will significantly increase the risk of oral cancer. Alcohol use, especially in combination with tobacco use, further amplifies this risk.
HPV Infection – Human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of developing oral cancers, particularly in the back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer).
Sun Exposure – Prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of lip cancer, especially in individuals with fair skin.
Poor Oral Hygiene – Neglecting oral hygiene practices and not visiting the dentist regularly can contribute to the development of oral health issues, including oral cancer.
When to Seek Professional Evaluation
If any of the signs or symptoms persist for more than two weeks without improvement, it’s crucial to seek prompt evaluation from a healthcare professional, such as a dentist, oral surgeon, or primary care physician. Early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups
Regular dental check-ups are instrumental in oral cancer screening. Your dentist is trained to detect signs of oral cancer during routine examinations. They will perform a thorough check of the mouth, including the gums, tongue, throat, and surrounding tissues, checking for any abnormalities that could indicate a problem.
Paying attention to any changes in the mouth, throat, or neck and seeking professional evaluation can make a significant difference in the outcome of oral cancer treatment. By understanding the risk factors, staying vigilant about oral health, and scheduling regular dental check-ups, individuals can take proactive steps in safeguarding against oral cancer and promoting overall oral well-being. Contact us to schedule your dental visit today.