Oral Cancer Symptoms & How to Lower Your Risk

Oral cancer awareness is important.

What’s a six letter word that nobody likes talking about? Cancer.

While we love helping our patients keep their smiles healthy and bright, we also screen for oral cancer.

Why? Because oral cancer is deadly. It may not be as commonly diagnosed as other types of cancer, such as breast cancer or colon cancer, but it does have a higher death rate. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, it has a mortality rate of 43%. And a big reason for this is because many oral cancer cases aren’t diagnosed until they’ve reached more advanced, difficult to treat stages.

Oral cancer awareness is important.

OK, so what’s the good news? When oral cancer is detected at an early stage, it has survival rates of up to 90 percent. Early detection is vital.

That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your annual dental exams and teeth cleanings. During your check-ups, we routinely look for any signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. And we also offer patients the option for a more thorough cancer screening called the VELscope examination, which helps to screen for early signs of oral cancer.

The VELscope exam is an easy and non-invasive screening that uses a hand held device that uses a light to examine your mouth’s tissues. If there are any areas of suspicion, we will request a biopsy with standard pathology tests. Depending on your age, health or family history, we recommend this simple test for many patients as an extension of their regular dental exams.

Oral Cancer & Its Symptoms

So what is oral cancer? It’s a cancer that can develop in the mouth or in the back of the throat. This area includes lips, gums, cheeks and tongue.

Here are some symptoms to look for:

    • Red or white spots, or sores anywhere within the mouth.
    • A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal.
    • A lump or rough spot of the skin or the lining of your mouth.
    • Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
    • Loose teeth or poorly fitting dentures.
    • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.

    Because oral cancer symptoms are often painless, or show little in the form of physical changes, detecting oral cancer at an early stage can be difficult. Fortunately, we can help look and feel for possible early warning signs.

    Tissue changes will occur normally within your mouth, and these are usually benign, such as when you bite the inside of your cheek. Sometimes these changes may mimic the symptoms of a cancerous symptom. On the other hand, if you notice any sore or discolored area that lasts for more than two weeks, please call us to have it looked over.

    Staying mindful of oral cancer and its symptoms, as well as regularly screening for it, will go a long way to improving early detection, and increase survival rates from this disease.

    If it’s been a while since you’ve had an examination that included an oral cancer screening, or you’d like to request a VELscope screening, please let us know – just call us at (206) 524-1000 to make an appointment or schedule an exam online.

    P.S. Here are 6 Things You Can Do to Lower Your Oral Cancer Risk!

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