When visiting Dr. Carrie Litner & Dr. Bill Lustig for your 6 month dental check-up, you are receiving more than “just” a teeth cleaning. They are also performing necessary oral cancer screenings in Kalamazoo, MI each time, which is vital for early detection. It is estimated that approximately 48,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with Oral Cancer this year (according to oralcancer.org). Oral cancer or “mouth cancer” can affect the lips, cheeks, tongue, palate and gums. The Oral Cancer Foundation lists dental oral cancer screenings as the first line of defense in early detection of oral cancer.
Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
In honor of April being Oral Cancer Awareness month we wanted shed light on the possible questions many individuals may have. What causes oral cancer? How do I know if I or a loved one has it? What happens if I do? Below highlights potential causes, symptoms and what treatment would look like.
- Excessive alcohol consumption (worse with tobacco and alcohol used in conjunction)
- Exposure to HPV-16 (same strain that the majority of cervical cancer patients have)
- Over exposure to sunlight for the lips
- Very slim, less than 7 percent may be through genetics
- *Gender – currently men are seeing twice the amount of oral cancer diagnosis but the number is decreasing. This may be due to more women using tobacco and heavy alcohol use and much less to do with actual gender
- Persistent mouth sores and pain
- Chronic sore throat
- White and/or red patches inside the mouth – can be on tongue, tonsil, inside cheeks, gums
- Lump, swelling, thickening in the cheek, lips, gums, tongue
- Difficulty swallowing and/or chewing
- Persistent bad breath
Many of the symptoms above plenty of people have had at some time in their life with the exception of a few. The difference is if any of these seem to be non-healing or persistent. If this is the case this is a red flag to get in for oral cancer screening immediately.
As with most other types of cancer, oral cancer is often treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor or growth. If the doctor believes cancerous cells still remain in the body, further treatment is needed and radiation and/or chemotherapy will then begin. This is to rid the lingering cancer cells that remain in the body. While there are different types of oral cancer, the most common (more than 90%) is squamous cell carcinoma.
Early Detection through Oral Cancer Screenings
If caught in early stages, survival rate is 80 – 90%. Unfortunately approximately two thirds are found in advanced stages with the death rate around 43% after 5 years from diagnosis. Actions one can put into place right away to diminish their chances of oral cancer are to stop using tobacco products, limit alcohol intake, limit sun exposure and ALWAYS wear sunscreen on the face AND on the lips.
The second set of action to take is keeping up with your 6 month dental exams. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if you feel completely aware of what is going on inside your mouth and on your lips, a dentist knows exactly what they are looking for and early detection is the absolute key with oral cancer. Have you slipped on your check-ups? Do you want an oral cancer screening in Kalamazoo to be safe? Contact the Lindenwoods Dental team today and we will make sure you’re taken care of!