In America, one person dies every hour due to oral cancer, which is why it’s so important to seek regular dental care. The majority of dentists who spot oral cancer have reported doing so more often during a routine tooth cleaning than any other way.
When it comes to cancer of any type, the earlier it’s found, the better chance there is of treating it with successful results. With oral cancer, it is more important to catch it early because it will metastasize to the lymph node quite quickly, which will make it almost impossible to treat.
Of all who found their oral cancer in the late stages, only 35% survived. If found before the typical symptoms develop, then the chance of survival is around 79%, and these days, all dentists are trained to screen all patients for oral cancer with every visit. So when your dentist looks under your chin, feels your lymph nodes, or pokes around your mouth with infrared light, they are not trying to find extra ways to bill you, they are trying to keep you from becoming a statistic.
Even if you go to the dentist on a regular basis, you still have to pay attention to your health. If you notice white or red discolorations on the soft tissues of your mouth, if you remain hoarse without illness, or if you have sores in your mouth that take more than 2 weeks to heal, you need to seek medical treatment right away. Further symptoms that may indicate oral cancer include lasting numbness and trouble swallowing, the feeling of something being stuck in the throat that doesn’t go away, or trouble moving the tongue or jaw that is not a result of injury or another illness.
Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol are habits that contribute the most to oral cancer, but it is also found in patients that don’t imbibe but have been exposed to HPV.
It’s important to remember that most early oral cancer signs can be mistaken for other issues such as a common cold, or a toothache. Though these may in fact be the cause of some problems, when following symptoms are present for more than a week, it is prudent to seek the assistance of a trained medical professional who can rule out oral cancer.
Keep this list of common symptoms handy to catch oral cancer early:
- Non healing mouth sores
- Regular mouth pain without injury
- Cheek thickening or lumps
- Trouble swallowing or chewing
- Long term sore throat
- Red or white patches anywhere in the mouth
- Swelling in the jaw
- Tooth loosening without injury
- Neck lumps
- Recurrent bad breath
- Sudden weight loss
If you see any of these symptoms, talk with your general practitioner or your dentist to see if they feel you should be screened for oral cancer. If caught early, treatment can be as simple as a small surgery to remove the growth, which can rid you of the cancer for good. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to the rest of your body and the chances of successful treatment decline dramatically.