Oral cancer, also referred to as mouth cancer, develops when there is abnormal cellular growth in the mouth. This cancer can develop on the tongue, the inner lining of the cheeks, lips, gums, or the roof or floor of the mouth. From there, it can spread to other parts of the mouth or the rest of the body.
Dr. Steven Hagerman of Hagerman Dental Care strongly urges patients to receive routine screenings for oral cancer. It is important to understand what oral cancer is and the importance of routine screenings. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this form of cancer.
How Common Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer makes up around three percent of all the cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S., which accounts for about 53,000 new cases every year.
What’s the Survival Rate of Oral Cancer?
The prognosis of oral cancer is best when the cancer is still localized, meaning it’s still in the mouth.
Although the survival rate is continuously improving, approximately 60 percent of all people diagnosed with oral cancer in any stage survive for at least five years. When it’s localized, over 80 percent of all people diagnosed with this cancer survive at least five years.
Who’s Most at Risk for Oral Cancer?
People who are over the age of 40 are at a higher risk for this type of cancer. It’s twice as likely to develop in men than women. Having a weakened immune system can also increase your risk. In addition, excessive sun exposure to your lips or having HPV can increase your likelihood of developing oral cancer.
If you use smokable or non-smokable tobacco products, you’re also more prone to oral cancer. These products expose your mouth to cancer-causing chemicals. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption elevates your risk of oral cancer, because it irritates the cells inside of the mouth.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
Mouth cancer can sometimes be difficult to detect. However, you may notice a sore in your mouth or on your lip that won’t heal. You might develop a reddish or white patch or a lump or growth in the inside of your mouth. Sometimes, nearby teeth will become loose, or you may have mouth pain. Difficulty swallowing is also possible. Any symptoms that last longer than a few days should be immediately checked by a dentist.
What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening at the Dentist Office?
When your dentist performs an oral cancer screening, they will look inside your mouth for lumps or discolored patches. Your dentist will use a gloved finger to evaluate the inside of your mouth and will also check your neck and throat.
Your dentist may also use a special dye that causes the abnormal cells to appear blue. They could also use a special light to assess for abnormal tissue growth. Your dentist may recommend you receive a biopsy to evaluate the abnormal cells. If cancer is detected, you’ll be referred to an oncologist for the appropriate treatment.
Oral Cancer Screenings Provided by Our St. Paul, MN Dentist
At Hagerman Dental Care, we take your oral health care very seriously. Dr. Steven Hagerman will consider your lifestyle, age, and familial history of cancer to create an appropriate oral cancer screening schedule.
If you’re at risk for oral cancer or have symptoms, contact Hagerman Dental Care, serving St. Paul and the surrounding areas, for an oral cancer screening. You may reach us at (651) 646-2392. You can also request an appointment through our online appointment request form.