Oral cancers can be deadly—however, with vigilance and early detection, survival rates are quite high. Here at Dr. June Goodall's West Houston office, we carefully screen patients for signs of this sinister condition. Read on to learn more.
Cancer in the mouth
Oral cancer involves the lips, tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth, and back of the throat. The American Cancer Society reports that dentists and physicians discover 53,000 new cases annually in the United States. Sadly, 11,000 people die from oral cancer each and every year.
Oral cancer's deadliness occurs when its cells spread beyond their original location. A common site for this metastasis is the lymph nodes of the neck.
Signs that you may have oral cancer
Your West Houston dentist knows that oral cancer often exhibits few symptoms at its earliest stages of development, a characteristic that leads many patients to not even know that they have the condition. Accordingly, Dr. Goodall performs a simple oral cancer screening on all patients over the age of 18 during their routine dental examinations and cleanings.
This examination involves visual inspections of the lips, back of the throat, tongue, and inside of the cheeks. Dr. Goodall also palpates (i.e. feels) the lymph nodes under the chin and at the sides of the neck to note any swelling or hard lumps.
Signs that you may have oral cancer include:
- Voice hoarseness
- A lump, sore or red/white patch which does not heal
- Pain in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
- Problems biting, chewing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- Changes in dental bite or in the fit of a denture or other prosthetic
Risk factors for oral cancer
Tobacco usage—both cigarettes and chewing tobacco—is the biggest risk factor. However, other factors related to lifestyle play a large role in the development of these malignancies, as well. They include:
- Sun exposure
- Unprotected sex (exposure to the Human Papillomavirus is on the rise, particularly among young women)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
Additionally, age, gender, and heredity all contribute to rates of oral cancer. Most oral cancer patients are males over 40, but the diagnoses among women are increasing, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Oral cancer screenings cause no pain, and yield important health information. So, if it's time for your six-month exam and cleaning, call Dr. June Goodall for an appointment. She'll be happy to explain the screening process and talk about your risk factors. Phone (713) 461-3200 today!