Oral Cancer 101

About 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Dentists are on the front line when it comes to spotting oral cancer during routine checkups. Luckily, with an experienced dentist like Dr. Andrew Owyoung on your side, oral cancer can be diagnosed early when it’s more treatable.

Some tumors in the oral cavity can be benign, or harmless, and don’t affect other areas of the body. With malignant tumors, cancer can become life-threatening and spread to other areas of the body.

Oral cancer can develop anywhere in your mouth, including your lips, tongue, and throat. It’s more common in men than women, and most people who develop it are over 60 years old.

Some people are more at risk for oral cancer than others

You may be at increased risk for developing oral cancer if you:

You may also be at increased risk for developing oral cancer if you already have a history of oral or other types of cancer.

Symptoms of oral cancer

One symptom of oral cancer is known as leukoplakia, which is little white patches that form inside your mouth or on your lips. While many of these patches are benign, some may become cancerous without prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Other symptoms of oral cancer include:

These symptoms can also indicate other medical conditions and a proper diagnosis is necessary to detect cancer as early as possible.

How oral cancer is diagnosed

Dr. Owyoung is trained to look for symptoms of cancer around your mouth, in your throat, and tongue during routine oral examinations. If you follow the recommended dental guidelines and come in for a checkup every six months, he can identify signs of cancer early enough for effective treatment.

If cancer is suspected, you’ll need to see a specialist for a biopsy, where a sample of affected skin cells are taken from your mouth and analyzed in a medical lab. You may need to undergo additional testing, including X-rays, an MRI, or CT scan to determine the extent of the disease, and if it’s traveled beyond your oral cavity.

Treatments for oral cancer

Oral cancer treatments depend on how early the cancer is detected. In early stages, you may receive radiation therapy to kill off the remaining cancer cells. You may also need to undergo surgery to remove the cancer cells in your mouth.

Advanced cancer treatments may involve a combination of radiation and chemotherapy to eliminate cancer cells in the affected area. Your dentist can refer you to an oral cancer specialist to perform cancer treatments or surgery.

In addition to cancer treatments, you’d also need support and possible treatment for side effects caused by the cancer and its treatment. You would require pain relievers or other medications to alleviate symptoms caused cancer or its treatment.

Stay in touch with your dentist

When your doctor determines the best course of treatment for your oral cancer, it’s important that you schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible for a thorough exam. To ensure treatment is effective, it is important that your mouth is clean and healthy. Your dentist can also provide necessary dental work you need before starting your cancer treatments.

Following cancer treatments, your dentist is an ally that works with you during the healing process to ensure your oral health is well-protected and your dental health isn’t compromised by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

If it’s time for your six-month checkup and oral cancer screening, call Soft Touch Dentistry to schedule your appointment, or use the convenient online booking tool.

Author
Dr. Owyoung Andrew Owyoung, DDS, has been providing comprehensive family dental care for 29 years to the Sacramento area. Widely considered a top dentist in Sacramento, the staff at Soft Touch Dentistry are equipped with the knowledge, experience, and equipment to deliver an unparalleled dental experience.

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