The American Cancer Society, estimate there are around 39,000 cases each year of oral cancer being diagnosed across the country. Unfortunately, some 8000 of those patients having been diagnosed result in premature and untimely deaths. It is very important that oral cancer is diagnosed early, giving an opportunity to use more effective treatments and medication. It is a major reason that Dr. Slate at her Lakewood dental office provides an examination for her patients each year and as part of her normal dental examinations.
If oral cancer is diagnosed early in its progression, it can be treated effectively.
What is oral cancer
As a pathologic process, oral cancer starts with no obvious or apparent symptoms. This makes it difficult to recognize without an examination which is carried out by a fully trained dentist.
There are many types of oral cancer; including throat cancer, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type is malignant squamous cell carcinoma, typically starting in the lip and mouth tissue. There are also other places where this disease can occur such as on the salivary glands, tongue, gums, face and throat.
What can you expect
An oral cancer examination doesn’t hurt and is totally painless. Dr. Slate incorporates this type of screening as part of your regular dental examination. She will look for abnormalities, feeling your face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps or lumps. Lasers may also be used to pick out pathologic changes, and are capable of seeing below the surface for spots and lesions. Ones which are invisible to the eye. Some of the signs and symptoms are red patches or sores. Red patches on the floor of the mouth, or on the front of the tongue, sores which also bleed and fail to heal. These can be indicative of cancerous changes.
Leukoplakia is a slightly raised lesion that can appear inside the mouth and may be cancerous. It is normally hardened and white or grey in color. Signs of these types of lesions will be looked for as well. Finally, soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal a pathology and will need looking at in more detail.
If abnormalities, lesions, lumps, or leukoplakia are found, Dr. Slate will implement a treatment plan which is tailored for you. All treatment options vary according to the clinical diagnosis and the patient’s need. Treatments for oral cancer may include: excision, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Colgate have an excellent article which provides more details about oral cancer screening and what to expect. In particular, their article gives further information about the visual exam, physical exam, devices used for screening and what happens after the examinations. Some further facts are also given as to why routine dental examinations are essential.
A personal message from Kelli Slate, DDS
Over three quarters of oral cancers are linked with behaviors and life style choices such as smoking, tobacco use, and too much consumption of alcohol. All of these are avoidable. Please ask us about ways in which we can help you refrain or abstain from behaviors that increase your risk of oral cancer. We can provide you with literature and options about how to quit riskier behaviors such as tobacco use.
If you have any worries or concerns regarding oral cancer, please call us or schedule an appointment online for an oral cancer examination.