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Oral Cancer FAQs
As with any type of cancer, oral cancer is serious, and early detection and treatment is important. In general, this term refers to cancer of the mouth, although the specific tissues that are affected can vary. The more someone understands about this type of cancer, the better the chances it can be diagnosed early and treated.
Frequently asked questions
The thought of cancer can be scary, but sometimes the fear can be mitigated by learning more about it.
Where can oral cancer develop?
Although the word oral refers to the mouth in general, cancer can develop in specific places in the mouth. These include inside the mouth, at the back of the throat and in the soft tissues of the mouth. Other places it can develop are the tonsils, tongue, lips, salivary glands and esophagus. If not treated soon enough, oral cancer can spread and involve the upper or lower jawbones, the neck lymph nodes or other places in the body.
What causes oral cancer?
There are various causes of this type of cancer, but tobacco is the biggest one. According to WebMD, people who use smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancer, particularly in the gums, cheek and lining of the lips. Those who smoke cigars, cigarettes or pipes are also at high risk.
Another common cause is high consumption of alcohol. Other causes include the human papillomavirus and excessive sun exposure. Men, especially those older than 50, and people with a family history of cancer are at higher risk of developing oral cancer.
What are the symptoms?
There are a variety of symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Numbness or soreness in the mouth
- Red or white patches inside the mouth
- A sore on the mouth, face or neck that bleeds easily and does not heal
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Voice changes
- Jaw swelling
- Chronic sore throat or the feeling something is caught in the throat
- Extreme weight loss
A visit to the dentist is warranted if any of these symptoms linger for longer than two weeks.
What are the treatments for oral cancer?
Surgery to remove the growth is usually the first step. This is followed by chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both to make sure all lingering cancer cells are destroyed.
How can oral cancer be prevented?
First of all, avoid or lessen risk factors. Do not smoke, chew tobacco or drink excessively. Wear sunscreen and a hat and cover the lips with an SPF lip balm.
Second, do periodic self-checks. Examine the mouth, lips and tongue on a regular basis and keep an eye out for oral cancer symptoms. Finally, make sure to visit the dentist at least twice a year. During the appointment, the dentist will perform a cancer screening exam. If there are any suspicious areas, a biopsy may be performed.
Oral cancer can be life-threatening if not treated early on. Know the signs to look for and see a dentist for regular cancer screenings.
Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Oral Cancer Screening in Salida, CA.
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