Knowledge is power when it comes to cancer. The more you know about a certain type of cancer, the better your chances are of detecting cancers in their early stages. Considering that April is dedicated to raising awareness about oral cancer, we at Cocoa Beach Family Dentistry have decided to take this moment to help you better understand oral cancer.
The Importance of Early Detection
Oral cancer may not have the highest diagnosis rates, but it has one of the most devastating rates when it comes to survival rates. Each year approximately 40,000 people will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer. That may not be as much as skin cancer or breast cancer, but it is still one of the more common types of cancer.
Even though only a small amount of people are diagnosed every year, the survival rate for oral cancer is fairly low. The reason the survival rate is fairly low is because many people are not diagnosed with oral cancer until it has progressed into the late stages. Late stage cancer can be extremely difficult to treat and in many cases it has spread to other parts of the body.
The best way to be diagnosed with oral cancer is to get an annual screening. Most dentists conduct an oral cancer screening during your annual checkups. Even if they aren’t telling you they are looking for oral cancer, they are looking for signs and symptoms that indicate the development of oral cancer. If the signs and symptoms are there, they may refer you to your healthcare provider for additional testing that will confirm a cancer diagnosis.
Your doctor can also conduct a screening for oral cancer. However, it is often not a part of your annual checkup. If you want to be screened by your healthcare provider for oral cancer, feel free to ask them to include it as part of your annual checkup.
The Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer describes any cancer that occurs in the mouth. It can happen in the lining of your cheeks, your gums, the floor of your mouth, back of the throat, and tongue.
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer are often overlooked because they are so subtle. People often think they just have a tiny sore in the mouth or slight pain from a toothache, when in reality those are signs and symptoms of oral cancer.
The signs and symptoms most associated with oral cancer are:
- Red and white patches that appear in the mouth and look like open sores
- Small spots that feel lumpy or rough
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Bleeding that occurs in the mouth and that is difficult to stop
- A general feeling in the mouth of soreness or intense irritation
- Developing difficulty speaking, swallowing, moving your jaw, or eating
- Sores that appear out of nowhere and that don’t appear to heal on their own
- Sores that tend to keep coming back
A Team of Knowledgeable Doctors and Dentists Will Help with Treatment of Oral Cancer
In the event that you are diagnosed with oral cancer, you will be working not with just one doctor to treat this disease, but a team of doctors. Upon diagnosis you will have a healthcare team that includes a primary care physician, oncologist, oral surgeon, and dentist. These individuals will work together to create a unique treatment plan that prevent the continued growth and spread of your cancer.
The type of treatment that is recommended will depend upon what type of cancer you have, what stage it is in, your previous health history, and even personal preference. Some options for treatment include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Early detection is crucial for oral cancer. The earlier you are diagnosed the better your chances of overcoming this disease. If you suspect you may be at risk for developing oral cancer, the dental staff at Cocoa Beach Family Dentistry can help.
Talk to our dental staff during your next appointment about your concerns for oral cancer. Our dental staff will make sure we conduct a complete screening for oral cancer. We can also answer any questions you may have about oral cancer. Call us today to schedule an appointment.