The Facts About Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is relatively rare, but its occurrence is increasing among some groups. It is most common among smokers or those who use chewing tobacco. If you have concerns about oral cancer, our Plano dental office can provide an oral cancer screening along with a regular dental checkup.
Am I At Risk for Oral Cancer?
As with most cancers, you are more likely to be at risk for oral cancer if you have certain risk factors. These factors include:
- Excessive sun exposure, especially during childhood
- Use of tobacco in any form
Use of alcohol
Family history of cancer
Men over the age of fifty are the most at risk for developing oral cancer. About three-quarters of people affected by oral cancer have one or more of the risk factors listed above. About one-quarter, however, have none of these. For this reason, it is important to have regular screenings for oral cancer. Your dentist can provide a routine screening as a part of your usual visit for cleaning, X-rays and other regular procedures.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
If you have any symptoms of possible oral cancer, you should bring these to your dentist’s attention right away. During your screening, the dentist will look for these symptoms as well as anything else unusual about the soft tissues in your mouth, but if you are concerned about any issues, never hesitate to ask about them.
Some symptoms include:
- Lumps, lesions, or any unusual changes in the mouth tissues
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Sores in the mouth that do not heal properly
- Difficulty eating, chewing or breathing
- Unexplained weight loss
If the dentist finds any unusual tissues, such as lumps, sores, unusually rough or discolored patches, or tissue erosion, he might take a biopsy to determine if the tissue is cancerous.
In order to reduce the risk that you might develop oral cancer, you should not smoke or use any form of tobacco, reduce your sun exposure, and reduce alcohol consumption. Self-screening can also be helpful. Above all, be sure to see your dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings, and to maintain your overall oral health.