Oral cancer can form anywhere in the oral cavity but it commonly develops along the tongue, the lining of the lips and cheeks, and the opening of the throat. As with most other types of cancer, patients can receive treatment and even a good prognosis if oral cancer is detected and treated in its early stages.
Causes of Oral Cancer
Certain risk factors greatly increase the risk for developing cancers of the mouth. Genetic predispositions also contribute to the formation of oral cancer. Using tobacco and drinking alcoholic beverages is scientifically proven to greatly increase the incidence of oral cancer. Another lesser-known contributor to this type of cancer is HPV (human papillomavirus).
Symptoms and Signs of Oral Cancer
Sometimes oral cancer is only detectable by a trained eye or diagnostic technology; however, some patients may experience noticeable signs and symptoms. Common signs of oral cancer include a change in the color of oral tissue. For instance, soft tissue that should appear a light pink may become purple or dark red. Sometimes white and bright red blotches and patches on the tongue or linings of the cheeks may indicate a malignancy. Other symptoms and signs include changes in one’s voice, a constant feeling of a lump in one’s throat, and difficulty swallowing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
When our family dentist performs oral examinations, he will look for suspicious lesions and growths in the mouth that may signify malignant tissue. Diagnostic technology may be used to help reveal possible cancers as well. If a suspicious lesion is found, a biopsy will be taken to determine if the mass is benign or malignant. Treatment will depend on the results of the biopsy. In some cases, patients may only require oral surgery to remove the affected area and others may need a combination of surgery and treatment like radiation and chemotherapy. When oral cancer is diagnosed, our dentist may refer patients to an oral surgeon or oncologist for advanced treatment.
If you have risk factors for oral cancer or have noticed changes in your voice or the appearance of the inside of your mouth, speak with our staff immediately to set up an appointment for a cancer screening. If you smoke or consume alcohol on a regular basis, be sure to inform our staff so that we can provide a thorough examination during checkups.