Oral cancers include cancer of the mouth, throat (oropharyngeal), and lips. Oral cancer screenings can detect suspicious lesions in their early stages, when treatment is most effective. Though high-risk patients include tobacco users and heavy drinkers, the potentially fatal disease can affect anyone at any time. People who come in contact with human papilloma virus (HPV), version 16, are also at high risk, and scientists believe that genetic predisposition may influence the development of oral cancer, as well. Over 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year alone; that’s 115 cases each day. The global numbers are astronomical, at 450,000 cases annually. Our family dentistry practice offers a number of services to patients, including oral cancer screenings. Contact our Boston practice to schedule your oral screening appointment.
The Outlook for Patients with Oral Cancer
Early detection and treatment of oral cancer is key to a successful outcome, so regular dental visits are extremely important. We lose one life to oral cancer each day, so this is a serious disease. Because late-stage detection is common, the five-year fatality rate is over 40 percent. However, the experienced dentists at Boston Prosthodontic are always on the lookout for early signs of potentially harmful lesions in the mouth that could indicate oral cancer. And here’s good news: when found and treated early, patients with oral cancer have an 80 to 90% survival rate.
Detection and Diagnosis
We take time to look for signs of oral cancer at each dental visit, but you can watch for symptoms during your daily oral homecare routine. If you notice a sore on your lips, neck, or in your mouth, and it does not heal in 14 days, you should visit us for a screening. Oftentimes, oral cancer lesions bleed easily, as well. Throat cancer can feel like something is caught in the throat, making swallowing difficult or painful. A hoarse voice, constant ear pain, numbness of the tongue or interior of the mouth, and pain or difficulty when moving the jaw or tongue may also indicate oral cancer. Should you experience any of these symptoms, book your appointment with Boston Prosthodontics Dental Group immediately, and be sure to tell us about your symptoms when making your appointment.
If an exam reveals suspicious lesions that could be cancerous, you will need a biopsy, which can be done in the office or by an oral surgeon, depending upon the location of the lesion(s). A lab will test the tissue sample to determine if the lesion is a tumor. The lab will then determine if your tumor is benign (presently safe) or malignant (dangerous). From this information, the doctor will discuss treatment with you.
In some cases, removal of benign tumors is suggested. Benign tumors may become malignant with time. However, other situations allow for benign tumors to remain intact, because they pose no significant risk to the patient’s health. If a benign tumor interferes with comfortable oral function and swallowing, you may want to have it removed.
For malignant tumors, surgical removal is a common treatment. A staging surgery could be recommended to help doctors determine the extent of the cancer. Small, isolated tumors may be completely extracted. Larger tumors may require partial removal, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. If removal of oral tumors results in deformation, reconstructive surgery may be a good option to restore proper function and a natural appearance.
Preventing Oral Cancer
If you use tobacco, stop. If you consume alcohol more than a few times per week, cut back. Also, parents should consider the HPV vaccine for their adolescent and teen children. Speak to your pediatrician or family physician about HPV vaccines.
Call to Action
Today, we have advanced detection, diagnosis, and treatment techniques to save lives touched by this potentially fatal disease. Call Boston Prosthodontic Dental Center today to schedule your visit, and rest assured that we will screen you for oral cancer.