Our society is well aware of the serious nature of cancer. Breast cancer, leukemia, and prostate cancer are some of our top health concerns. Numerous fundraising and awareness events take place every year as we battle these serious diseases. However, other forms of cancer can sometimes go overlooked. Oral cancer is a grave and far too common condition. Not only is there little public awareness of this condition; individuals do not know how to recognize and combat oral cancer. Our oral pathology experts recommend that you perform an oral cancer self-examination once a month. We can also perform a more comprehensive exam on a regular basis. To learn more about oral cancer self-examinations, contact our Montgomery practice.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer can affect any of the soft tissues in your mouth and/or throat. Though less widely discussed than other diseases, oral cancer is a common concern. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, almost 45,750 Americans are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer every year. The condition can affect anyone. However, certain individuals face a higher likelihood of developing oral cancer. High-risk individuals include:
- Men over age 40
- Smokers and other tobacco users
- Heavy drinkers
- Those with HPV
- Those with a family history of cancer
Oral cancer has a fairly high mortality rate of 57 percent. However, this is because the disease often goes undetected until it has spread to other parts of the body. When oral cancer is caught early, the survival rate is nearly 90 percent. For this reason, regular screenings are a vital component of your health care.
How to Conduct a Self-Examination
You should check for oral cancer about once a month, particularly if you are at a high risk for the disease. After washing your hands, use a bright light and a mirror to examine all of your soft tissues. If you wear dentures, you should remove the restoration before your self-examination. As you examine your lips, cheeks, and tongue, look for:
- White patches, red patches, or a combination of the two
- Small lumps
- Persistent sores on your soft tissues
You should also examine your neck and jaw. Move your head up, down, and side-to-side. As you do so, feel for any lumps in these areas. Do not forget to check under your chin and around your clavicle. You should also open and close your jaw to check for any stiffness. Additional symptoms of oral cancer can include a chronic sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
Do Not Neglect Professional Exams
Although monthly self-examinations are important, it is still essential that you undergo routine professional checkups. At your biannual dental exams, your dentist will look for tiny lesions and other suspicious areas that you might not notice. Then he or she will order a biopsy to check for the presence of cancer. At Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, we can also take CATSCANs to look for lesions that are invisible to the naked eye. If we find cancerous spots in these very early stages, you will typically have an excellent chance of beating the disease.
Contact Us for More Information
To learn more about oral cancer self-examinations or to schedule a professional checkup, contact our office today.