The word “cancer” can strike fear in anyone’s heart. While many types of cancer are now highly treatable, oral cancer remains a deadly exception. Shockingly, one person dies from oral cancer every hour in the United States alone, and the disease often goes undetected until it’s too late for effective treatment. This is why early detection and prevention are so important for oral cancer.
Oral cancer is a serious disease that affects various parts of the mouth, including the throat, cheeks, tongue, and lips. Sadly, oral cancer is often not detected until it has advanced to later stages, when it is much harder to treat. In fact, oral cancer claims one American life per hour, every day of the year. One reason for this is that people may mistake early signs of the disease, such as a sore that doesn’t heal, for less serious issues.
The majority of oral cancer cases (over 90%) are classified as squamous cell carcinoma, which targets the epithelial cells. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, due in part to higher rates of smoking and other risk factors. Older people are also more likely to develop the disease, and oral cancer kills over 8,000 Americans annually.
The good news is that early detection and treatment can significantly improve survival rates. Regular screenings are especially important for individuals with a higher risk of developing oral cancer, such as those who smoke or use tobacco, or those with a family history of the disease.
Another concerning trend is the rising number of oral cancer cases linked to HPV16, a type of human papillomavirus. These cancers often affect the back of the mouth, making them harder to spot. In fact, patients may not even be aware of any changes in their mouth, which can delay diagnosis and treatment. To make matters worse, patients who have been diagnosed with oral cancer are at a much higher risk of recurrence in the first 10 years after diagnosis.
By staying informed about the risk factors and symptoms of oral cancer, and by getting regular screenings, you can reduce your risk of developing this disease and improve your chances of a successful outcome.
There are several risk factors associated with oral cancer. These include:
- Tobacco Use: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco or snuff increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Drinking heavily regularly can increase your risk of oral cancer.
- HPV Infection: HPV16, a human papillomavirus type, can increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- Age: People who are middle-aged and older are most likely to develop the disease.
- Gender: Men are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer than women.
- Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to the sun without proper protection can increase your risk of lip cancer.
- Poor Diet: A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may increase your risk of oral cancer.
- Genetic Factors: A family history of oral cancer may increase your risk of developing the disease.
- Weakened Immune System: A weakened immune system can increase your risk of oral cancer.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can increase your risk of oral cancer by allowing harmful bacteria to accumulate in your mouth.
Signs And Symptoms
- A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal or persists for more than two weeks.
- Pain or discomfort in your mouth.
- Persistent hoarseness or difficulty speaking.
- A lump or thickening in your cheek.
- White or red patches on your gums, tongue, tonsil, or mouth lining.
- Difficulty swallowing or feeling like something is stuck in your throat.
- A persistent sore throat or feeling like something is caught in your throat.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Numbness or tenderness in your mouth or lips.
- Loose teeth or a change in the fit of your dentures.
It is important to note that other, less serious conditions can cause these symptoms. Still, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must speak with a healthcare professional to rule out oral cancer or receive early detection and treatment.
A dentist screens for oral cancer by thoroughly examining the mouth, throat, and neck. The dentist will look for abnormalities such as red or white patches, sores that do not heal, lumps or bumps, or other suspicious growths. They may also palpate the lymph nodes in the neck to check for any swelling or tenderness. Sometimes, the dentist may use a special light to help identify abnormal cells.
This special light is called a Velscope. By utilizing the Velscope oral cancer screening system, Dr. Perrone can detect both pre-cancerous and cancerous changes in the oral tissue at an early stage, thus increasing the chances of successful treatment and recovery from oral cancer.
While the VELscope cannot diagnose oral cancer alone, it is essential to the diagnostic process, helping identify abnormalities that may require further examination or a surgical biopsy.
Regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection of oral cancer. During routine dental visits, the dentist will perform a visual and physical examination of the mouth, which can help identify potential issues. If the dentist suspects oral cancer, they may recommend further testing, such as a biopsy or imaging tests, to confirm the diagnosis. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment of oral cancer, so it’s important to visit your dentist regularly and report any changes or symptoms in your mouth.
“I personally never charge anything extra for use of the VELscope system. It is too important a tool to not use it on every patient that undergoes treatment in my office. When it comes to possibly saving lives I feel we should provide the highest level of care along with the latest technology to do the job. VELscope is that tool.” – Marielaina Perrone DDS
Dental Biopsies and Oral Cancer Diagnosis
If your dentist detects any abnormalities during your routine dental checkup, they may suggest a biopsy to confirm whether the area is cancerous. In the case of oral cancer diagnosis, you may be referred to an oral surgeon to remove the tumors. Radiation or chemotherapy may also be recommended as part of your treatment plan. Early detection is crucial for the best chances of recovery and survival.
Early Detection is Key: Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or are concerned about your oral health, don’t wait to see your dentist. Early detection is crucial when it comes to oral cancer, and routine screenings can make all the difference in your chances of survival.
Contact Marielaina Perrone DDS at (702) 458-2929 to schedule your no-cost cosmetic consultation and take the first step towards a healthier, happier smile.
Dr. Marielaina Perrone is a highly respected and experienced dentist in Henderson, Nevada, with over two decades of expertise in providing quality dental care to her patients. She graduated from Stony Brook University School Of Dental Medicine and has completed advanced
training in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and orthodontics.
Dr. Perrone is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in dentistry and continuing education to provide the best possible care for her patients.
Dr. Perrone takes a patient-centered approach and believes in personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and preferences. Her gentle and compassionate demeanor creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for patients during their dental appointments.
Aside from dentistry, Dr. Perrone enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking. She also volunteers her time and expertise to various charitable organizations in her community.