Oral cancer is a disease that affects many people every year. In the United States, oral cancer rates are on the rise, and we all must do our part to educate ourselves on the warning signs and symptoms of this deadly disease. This April, West Richland Family Dental would like to take the opportunity to help spread oral cancer awareness by providing you with a guide to educating your community on oral cancer screenings and prevention.
What Is Oral Cancer and What Are the Risk Factors for Developing It?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth. Oral cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 40, and tobacco use (including smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes) is the leading risk factor for developing the disease. Other risk factors for oral cancer include excessive alcohol consumption, a history of sun exposure (which can damage the lips and increase the risk of cancer), and a family history of the disease.
The Dangers of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a dangerous disease that can be difficult to treat. If it is not caught in the early stages, it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. Oral cancer is also associated with a high rate of recurrence, so even if it is caught early and treated successfully, there is a risk that it will come back. Here are some facts about oral cancer that support the need for regular screenings.
- The average age of diagnosis is 62.
- Tobacco use (including smoking, chewing tobacco, and snuff) is the leading risk factor for developing oral cancer.
- Alcohol consumption is also a major risk factor for oral cancer.
- Oral cancer is more common in men than in women.
- Survival rates for oral cancer vary widely based on the original location and the extent of the disease.
- Oral cancer is associated with a high rate of recurrence.
- Regular screenings are the best way to detect oral cancer early.
These facts show just how important it is for everyone to be aware of the risks of oral cancer and to get screened regularly.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The most common symptom of oral cancer is a sore or irritation in the mouth that does not go away. Other symptoms can include bleeding in the mouth, a lump or mass in the throat or neck, difficulty swallowing, and voice changes. The early stages of oral cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, it can cause several different symptoms, including:
- A sore or irritation in the mouth that does not go away
- A lump or mass in the mouth or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Ear pain
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your family dentist or doctor as soon as possible for a screening.
What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. First, if you use tobacco products, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk. Second, limiting your alcohol consumption can also help lower your risk. Third, wearing sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30 or higher when you are outdoors can help protect your lips from the sun’s harmful rays. Finally, having regular dental checkups is important because your dentist can detect early signs of oral cancer.
Here are steps you can take to prevent developing oral cancer:
- Quit using tobacco products
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Practice safe sun exposure
- See your dentist or doctor regularly for oral cancer screenings
Treatment Options for Oral Cancer
If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, your treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. Early-stage cancers can often be treated successfully with surgery. More advanced cancers may require a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Your family dentist or doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Common treatment plans for oral cancer include:
- Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy: uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells
- Targeted therapy: a treatment that targets specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that the cancer cells thrive in.
- Immunotherapy: helps the body’s immune system fight cancer
No matter what treatment plan you and your doctor choose, it is important to stay positive and hopeful. Many people have been successfully treated for oral cancer and gone on to lead happy, healthy lives. With early detection and proper treatment, you can too.
How and Where to Get Screened for Oral Cancer in West Richland and Richland
Oral cancer screenings are quick and easy, and they can be done during a regular dental visit. The Oral Cancer Foundation recommends that all adults over the age of 18 should have an oral cancer screening at least once every year. This is especially important for those who use tobacco products or have a family history of oral cancer.
If you’re looking for a place to get screened for oral cancer in Richland or West Richland, WA, you have a few options. The first is to make an appointment with your dentist. Many dentist offices, like West Richland Family Dental, offer oral cancer screenings as part of their routine care, so this is a great place to start. You can also contact local cancer centers and hospitals, such as Kadlec Regional Medical Center and Tri-Cities Cancer Center to ask if they are currently offering oral cancer screenings. Finally, you can always visit an oral surgeon for a screening.
During an oral cancer screening, your family dentist will look for any abnormal changes in the tissues of your mouth and throat. If anything suspicious is found, you may be referred to a specialist for further testing. If anything unusual is found, your dentist may recommend further testing. An oral cancer screening is quick, painless, and could save your life. Oral cancer is a serious disease that affects thousands of people every year.
Early detection is key to successful treatment, so make sure to schedule an appointment with your family dentist during Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Schedule your Oral Cancer screening appointment today.