What Your Dentist Wants You to Know About Oral Cancer Screenings What is Oral Cancer?

Jun 01, 2023

It is a cancerous tissue growth in the mouth. Oral cancer usually affects various oral features, including the lips, tongue, gums, inner lining of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. The condition typically begins in the flat cells that cover the surfaces of the oral cavity, but it can also start in the salivary glands, tonsils, and throat.

What are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Various factors predispose you to oral cancer. If you are not keen on them, you may identify oral cancer when it is too late for treatment to be effective at TLC Dental Care. Some prevalent risk factors of oral cancer:

  • Using tobacco in any form, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol consumption, especially when you are already a smoker
  • Aging – oral cancer is more common in individuals over the age of 40.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – it is a sexually transmitted virus, common for people that indulge in oral sex.
  • Gender – men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
  • Prolonged sun exposure to the lips without optimal protection
  • A weakened immune system, such as when you have HIV/AIDS or cancer
  • A family history of oral cancer or other head and neck cancers
  • A previous diagnosis of cancer

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

The symptoms of oral cancer can vary depending on the location and stage of the cancer. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • A persistent sore in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks
  • Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty and pain when swallowing food or moving your jaw or tongue
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling sensations in the mouth, tongue, or throat
  • A significant change in your voice, such as hoarseness or raspiness
  • Pain in your ear without any hearing loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loose teeth or dentures and other oral devices that no longer fit well

How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

Generally, the symptoms of oral cancer cannot diagnose the condition. Symptoms can be similar to those of other less serious conditions. Therefore, you need a proper diagnosis and treatment by Dr. Terrie Cribbs or another dentist near you.

Dentists near you typically diagnose oral cancer through a physical examination and other tests. First, you need an oral cancer screening in Knoxville, TN. It is a thorough examination of the mouth, tongue, and throat, where your dentist will look for any abnormalities or signs of cancer. The role of an oral cancer screening is to identify any signs of cancer early, where treatment will be most successful.

If you have any signs of oral cancer, the dentist in Knoxville, TN, will conduct other tests, such as a biopsy, to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

How is Oral Cancer Treated?

Unlike what some people may believe, an oral cancer screening near you cannot treat cancer. Instead, identifying risk factors and prescribing treatment early is a fundamental step. For treatment, dentists will recommend approaches such as:

  • Surgery – to remove the cancerous tissue and nearby lymph nodes. In other cases, reconstructive surgery is also necessary to restore the appearance and function of the mouth and throat after the initial surgery to remove the cancerous tissues.
  • Radiation therapy – uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Dentists near you may use it as a single treatment or combined with surgery or chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy – is a drug treatment that kills cancer cells. It can also work singularly or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Targeted therapy – uses drugs to target specific proteins or other molecules in the body involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy – employs drugs to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.
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