Oral cancer claims roughly 10,000 lives in the U.S. each year, and tens of thousands more get diagnosed with this devastating disease. While oral cancer is neither the most common nor the most talked-about form of cancer, it is still worthy of our attention. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it is the perfect time for you to pause to consider whether you are doing all you can to protect yourself from this condition. This blog post discusses the signs and symptoms of oral cancer as well as how a quick screening by your dentist in Mankato could save your life!
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
If you notice any of the following, it would be wise for you to visit a medical professional to get tested for oral cancer:
- Swelling or stiffness in the jaw
- Strange lumps anywhere in the mouth or throat
- Patches of red or white discolored tissue
- Unexplained loose teeth
- Unexplained changes in your voice
- A sore throat that does not go away
- Unexplained weight loss
Do not take it for granted that you will notice signs and symptoms of oral cancer as soon as they appear. Often, indicators of the disease are so subtle that only a trained eye can spot them while the cancer is still in its early stages. That is one reason why experts recommend that all adults receive an oral cancer screening at least once a year. Such a screening could be the key to early detection, and early detection is often a key to successfully fighting cancer.
No One Is Exempt
It is a common misconception that only individuals who smoke or chew tobacco are at risk for oral cancer. Anyone can develop this disease, regardless of their habits or lifestyle choices. In addition to tobacco use, other significant risk factors for oral cancer include heavy alcohol consumption, prolonged sun exposure, and the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a particularly worrisome risk factor because it is extremely common, and many people do not realize they have it; it often presents no obvious symptoms.
The Oral Cancer Screening Process
Dentists are trained to spot even subtle signs of oral cancer. In fact, many dentists include an oral cancer screening as part of each recare appointment. During the screening, your dentist or hygienist will perform a visual and tactile examination of your mouth and the surrounding structures. They will search for any of the abovementioned signs of oral cancer, and they may ask you a few questions to find out whether you have been experiencing any symptoms that might indicate a problem. The screening process typically takes just a few minutes, and it is completely painless and noninvasive. If your dentist finds any reason to suspect that you have oral cancer, will help you arrange for follow-up testing.
Have you been checked for signs of oral cancer lately? If it has been more than 12 months since your last screening, visit your dentist as soon as possible for quick and potentially lifesaving exam!
About the Author
Dr. James Kalina is an experienced general dentist in Mankato who is deeply interested in both the oral health and overall wellbeing of his patients. He includes an oral cancer screening as part of your recare appointment. If you need to get screened for oral cancer, or you have other concerns about caring for your smile, contact our office today at 507-625-2021.