Why are oral cancer screenings so important? The earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance it can be treated.
Facts About Oral Cancer
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation website, around 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Of those 53,000, it is estimated that only slightly more than half will be alive within 5 years. It will cause around 9,750 deaths for the year. This means that approximately 1 person will die per hour in the span of 24 hours over the next 365 days.
So, why is the mortality rate so high for oral cancer? It's not because it's hard to diagnose, it's because it is often discovered late in its development. This means that it has metastasized to another location by the time it is found, causing the prognosis to be significantly worse. That's why it's so important to have regular oral cancer screenings.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Early symptoms of oral cancer are usually not recognized by patients, mostly because the cancer is typically painless. The cancer could appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small ulcer that looks like a canker sore. Of course, not every sore in your mouth is cancerous. So, it's recommended that you see your dentist if you have a sore that does not heal after 14 days.
Other symptoms include:
- Pain when swallowing or speaking
- Wart like masses
- Unexplained hoarseness that lasts for an extended period of time
- Persistent ear aches
- Unexplained numbness near your mouth or face
- Painless lumps or masses.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer with Oral Cancer Screenings
The best chance of oral cancer to be detected early on is through routine visits with your dentist or periodontist.
Dr. Thanik is trained to see possible changes in tissues, or the actual cancer, while it is still in its earliest stages. He also completes an oral cancer screening at every comprehensive periodontal evaluation. It's extremely important to see your dentist for yearly checkups, at a minimum. They can help you monitor your oral health and, in most cases, can help to catch any changes that may need further evaluation.
If you want to go a step further, you can perform a self-exam once a month. During this exam, you will look and feel inside the mouth for suspicious sores or visual changes to your tissues. You should also feel the jaw and neck for lumps. If you find anything that looks odd, give us a call.