Oral Cancer

Any disease, dental disease or otherwise, is always best caught in its earliest stages. In many cases, it is not only easier to control, but it may be reversible or completely eliminated. Take oral cancer for instance. In the United States a person dies from oral cancer every hour. That’s 24 people a day. Of those diagnosed just over half will be alive five years from their original diagnosis. However, if found in its earliest stages the survival rate is 80 to 90 percent. Because your dentist examines your mouth biannually, they can be the first to detect oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Oral cancers usually present as a sore or some sort of growth on your inner cheek, tongue, or elsewhere in your mouth. The following symptoms may be an indication of oral cancer:

  • A sore or sores in your mouth that won’t heal
  • Red or white patches in your mouth
  • A sore or painful tongue
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Feeling like something is caught in your throat
  • A lump or thickening in your mouth or on your tongue

What Happens Next

When a patient develops any of the above symptoms, particularly a sore or lump, their dentist would perform a biopsy to determine whether or not it was cancerous or benign (non-cancerous).  If it was cancerous the most common treatment options include:

  • Surgical removal of the growth
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy consists of a mixture of chemical drugs infused throughout your body to eliminate cancer cells.  Radiation, on the other hand, is a localized treatment that uses high-energy waves targeted at the cancerous area to damage or destroy any remaining cancer cells.