According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it is estimated that in 2017 oral cavity cancer:
- Will be diagnosed in 4,700 Canadians
- Will be the cause of death for 1,250 Canadians
At Country Dental in Ontario, our dental specialists offer complete oral cancer screenings at no extra charge with a complete dental exam. In this article, we hope to address any questions you may have and we will discuss several aspects of oral cancer including early warning signs, causes, treatments, screening and prevention.
What is Oral Cavity Cancer?
Lip and oral cavity cancer refers to cancer in any part of the oral cavity (mouth) including:
- Palate (roof of the mouth)
- Floor of the mouth
What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?
According to the Canadian Cancer Society there are a number of early signs and symptoms of oral cavity cancer, including:
- White, red, or mixed white and red patches on mouth or lips
- Lumps on the tongue or lips (or in the mouth)
- Mouth sores (or ulcers) that won’t heal
- A loss of sensation or numbness in the lips or tongue
- Slurring during normal speech
- Pain in mouth that does not seem to go away
- Earaches that persist and won’t go away
- Thickening of the cheek flesh
- Unusually loose teeth or dentures that don’t seem to fit anymore
- Swelling of the lymph nodes or salivary glands
- Possible swelling of neck or jaw
As oral cancer grows and spreads throughout the body and into your organs there may be other oral cancer symptoms and signs. These may include an inability to fully open the mouth, difficulty or pain when chewing or swallowing (or when moving the jaw or tongue), plus a loss of appetite and/or weight loss.
In very advanced cases of oral cancer, the jaw can be weakened and may even break. A condition called “orocutaneous fistula” can also occur, which is where an opening forms from the inside of your mouth to the outer skin as the oral cancer wears through the layer of fat between the mouth and the cheek.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
The most influential risk factors and known causes of oral cavity cancer are heavy smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and chewing tobacco usage. Note that using alcohol and tobacco together increases the risk of developing oral cancer more so than using just one of the products alone.
Additional known risk factors and causes of oral cancer include:
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Pre-cancerous conditions
- Family history of squamous cell carcinoma
- Previous cancer
- Sun exposure
- Diets low in vegetables and fruit
- Weakened immune system
Possible risk factors include poor oral health and dental care, poor-fitting dentures, and second-hand smoke.
What Are the Common Oral Cancer Treatments?
If our Ontario dentists detect oral cancer you will be referred to an Oncologist (a person who specializes in cancer). Your oncologist will help develop a treatment plan for your oral cancer depending on your unique needs. They will consider what stage the cancer is in, where the cancer is located in your mouth, the outcomes of various treatment options, as well as your overall health and ability to undergo treatments.
Oral cancer treatment options can include:
- Radiation therapy
When Should I Have An Oral Cancer Screening?
Early screening and detection of oral cancer increases the likelihood of successful treatment. At Country Dental we offer oral cancer screenings at no additional cost with a complete dental exam.
If you have noticed any of the above listed signs of oral cancer or if you smoke, use tobacco, drink alcohol, or have a pre-cancerous condition, talk to your dentist about having regular oral cancer screenings.
There are several pre-cancerous conditions of the oral cavity that you and your dentist can monitor for, including:
- Leukoplakia – abnormal white area or spots on the mucous membrane lining of mouth.
- Erythroplakia – abnormal red area or spots on the mucous membrane lining of mouth.
- Erythroleukoplakia – abnormal white and red area or spots on the mucous membrane lining of mouth.
What Is the Best Method of Oral Cancer Prevention?
While it may seem obvious, here is the best approach you can take to help prevent oral cancer:
- Stop using tobacco products
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Visit your dentist for a regular check-up at least once a year, which includes an Oral Cancer Screening
If you still have questions or would like more information about oral cancer screenings, or if you wish to talk to one of our local Ontario dentists about your risk of developing oral cancer, please contact our dental office nearest you:
Additional Articles About Oral Health: