Think oral cancer isn’t so common? Think again. We bet you’ll recognize at least one of these celebrities who all battled oral cancer: Babe Ruth, George Harrison, Michael Douglas, Sigmund Freud and President Grover Cleveland. Of course, oral cancer also targets non-celebrities, too. According to the International Oral Cancer Association, one person dies of oral cancer every hour of every day. That adds up to more than 8,000 people each year just in the United States. What can you do to avoid oral cancer? See your dentist in Houston regularly for an oral cancer screening to detect early warning signs before symptoms develop.
What Are the Early Warning Signs?
During an oral cancer screening, the dentist looks for changes in soft tissue that could be indicative of a cancerous spot in your mouth. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these signs, too, so you can recognize them during your oral hygiene routine at home. They include:
- A sore anywhere in your mouth or on your lips that will not heal
- A lump or thickening of any oral tissue in your mouth or down your neck
- A white, red or gray patch that can be smooth or scaly
- A spot in your mouth that feels numb
- A persistent sore throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit properly
- Jaw pain
Are You at Risk for Oral Cancer?
The short answer to that question is yes. Oral cancer can strike anyone. However, there are certain behaviors that increase your risk for oral cancer.
You won’t be surprised to learn that one of those risky behaviors is tobacco use, both smoking and chewing. Add a few too many alcoholic drinks to tobacco use and the risk is even higher. Other risk factors include persistent facial sun exposure, a family history of cancer and a previous diagnosis of oral cancer and HPV infection.
What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?
A screening includes carefully examining your face, mouth and neck. The dentist may begin by assessing the symmetry of your face and examining your lips. Then, we examine inside your cheeks, your tongue, under your tongue, the roof of your mouth and your gums. We’ll have you stick out your tongue and say, “ah,” so we can see your throat, too. Finally, we’ll feel the lymph nodes in your neck and jaw and talk to you about your smoking and alcohol consumption habits.
If you haven’t had a dental checkup or oral cancer screening in a while, then call our office today. The life you save may be your own.
About the Author
With more than 32 years of experience practicing dentistry, Dr. Donald F. Tamborello is a trusted professional in Houston. A graduate of the University of Texas, he works to ensure the oral and general health of his patients. Dr. Tamborello can be reached for more information through his website.