Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a serious disease and catching it early is important, which is why our patients receive regular oral cancer screenings. Mouth Healthy, a website of the American Dental Association (ADA), has an article on oral cancer which lists the following signs and symptoms to look for:
- A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
- Some people complain of a sore throat, feeling like something is caught in their throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in voice. If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more.
Oral Cancer Screening
Dr. Albers performs an oral cancer screening during our comprehensive new patient exam. These screenings continue when patients come to the office for twice yearly cleaning appointments. Both our hygiene staff and Dr. Albers perform this screening. They examine the throat, cheeks, and base of the tongue, looking for any unusual swelling or discolorations. They palpate the lips, cheeks, and lymph nodes around the jaw, also looking for any unusual swelling or lumps. If anything suspicious is found, we refer patients to an oral surgeon or other specialist for further workup.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Patients should also be aware of certain behaviors that are risk factors for oral cancer. Research shows that men are more likely than women to have oral cancer. Smokers and heavy drinkers are also at increased risk of developing oral cancer. Finally, there has been an increase of oral cancers related to the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. If you have any of these risk factors, make sure you have regular visits with your dentist to screen for this cancer.