Cancer is always a scary word—but it doesn’t have to be the last word. Equipped with good information and the best doctors, you can feel empowered to navigate whatever stands before you or your loved one. Oral cancer is common, affecting approximately 50,000 Americans every year. If you have more questions about oral cancer, read more below from Dr. Giannelli at Neighborhood Smiles in La Crosse.
Signs of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is most common among people ages 41-60, and men are at a greater risk of developing it than women. Oral cancer can affect your tongue, cheeks, lips, sinuses, throat, teeth, gums, and roof of the mouth or below your tongue. Unfortunately, it is often detected later than many other types of cancer. This is one reason why it’s so important to know your body and what’s normal (or not) for you. The earlier you can detect any sign of changes in your mouth, the better. Regular visits to the dentist include regular screenings for abnormalities that may be signs of oral cancer. These signs may include:
- Sore throat that doesn’t heal
- Unexplained bleeding or numbness in your mouth
- Dentures suddenly don’t fit the same
- Sores in the mouth
- Lump in your throat
- Thick lining in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Red or white sores in your mouth
- Tongue pain
- Jaw pain or stiffness when chewing
Some of these symptoms may be confused with gum disease or cold sores, so it’s important you see a dentist or doctor to get the right diagnosis.
Causes of Oral Cancer
Both genetics and lifestyle habits can put you at increased risk for oral cancer. Know your risk factors and talk with your dentist about your family and medical history.
Oral cancer can be caused by:
- Using tobacco
- Abusing alcohol
- Existing condition of HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Family history of cancer
- Excessive sun exposure (especially at a young age)
You might be surprised to hear that more than 25% of all oral cancer cases occur among people who never smoked and only had alcohol occasionally.
Treating Oral Cancer
Only a medical professional can diagnose you with oral cancer, and doctors are essential to helping you fight it. If you have any cause for concern, contact your La Crosse dentist or doctor immediately.
The doctor will look at your mouth and remove some cells to determine if they are cancerous. Cancerous cells grow uncontrollably and harm your body. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are essential for survival and recovery. Your medical doctor and dentist can work together to give you the best cancer treatment possible.
Cancer treatments may include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Other alternative treatments exist and are worth discussing with a specialist. The good news is that one-year survival rate of oral cancer is 81% – though you are at an increased risk of it recurring later.
Because your body is a complex group of interconnected parts and systems, your oral health can greatly help or hurt your overall health. Start taking better care of yourself and make an appointment with us today!