There are a lot of myths regarding oral cancer. The most common myth is that it only affects smokers. Oral cancer refers to cancer in any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, inside of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, back of the throat, and tongue.
According to the American Cancer Society, the death rate for oral cancer is decreasing, and a large part of that is due to the increase in oral cancer screenings.
At Westlake Smile Studio in Westlake Village, California, Dr. Mimi Theerathada knows that early detection of an oral cancer can allow you to get swift treatment. Oral cancer screenings are quickly and easily incorporated into your routine exams.
Not sure if you need an oral cancer screening? This is what you need to know about oral cancer screenings, including who benefits from screenings.
Who is at risk for oral cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 45,000 new cases of oral cancer each year in the United States. Oral cancer can affect any person of any race, age, or gender.
However, certain risk factors increase your risk of developing suspicious lesions. These risk factors include:
The CDC also notes that oral human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancers in the back of the throat. Men (especially Caucasian men) are most at risk of developing oral cancer.
- Smoking (including cigars, cigarettes, pipes, etc.)
- Chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Age (over 50)
- Excessive UV exposure (cancers on the lip)
Who should get an oral cancer screening?
Based on the above information, it’s a good idea to receive an oral cancer screening during your routine dental appointments. Even if you’re not in any of the high-risk categories, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution.
If you do fall into any of the high-risk categories, it may be time to talk to us about an oral cancer screening. We know it’s not always easy to talk (or even think) about cancer, but oral cancer screenings can give you the opportunity to start any necessary treatment as soon as possible.
Signs of oral cancer
Lumps and bumps are the most well-known signs of cancer, but when it comes to oral cancer, you might notice a variety of symptoms, including:
- Sores that won’t heal
- Loose or wiggly teeth (caused by tumors in the bones or jaw)
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Lesions on your lips
Depending on their location, tumors can cause difficulty swallowing or pain and discomfort in your mouth. During your oral screening, Dr. Theerathada examines your mouth for any potential red flags, including under your tongue, inside of your cheeks, and on the roof of your mouth.
Note that if you spot any of these signs, don’t wait for your next routine appointment. Let us know if you’re concerned about a sore or lesion in your mouth, or if you have unexplained pain or discomfort in your mouth.
Advantages of oral cancer screenings
Like all cancers, oral cancer is easiest to treat during the earliest stages. That makes an oral cancer screening a potential life-saver. On top of that, the screenings themselves are quick and painless.
To learn more about oral cancer screenings or to schedule an appointment, give our Westlake Village clinic a call. You can also request an appointment easily with our online scheduling tool