What do you know about oral cancer?
One person dies every hour from oral cancer in the United States and the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. The death rate associated with oral cancer is high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but because the cancer is discovered late in its development. Often oral cancer is only discovered when the cancer has spread, most likely to the lymph nodes in the neck.
The oral cavity includes your lips, gums, tongue, area of your mouth under your tongue, the roof of your mouth and the lining of your cheeks. The throat begins at at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
Symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:
- a pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away
- a sore in the mouth that will not heal
- a persistent lump or thickening in the mouth
- a chronic sore throat
- numbness, pain or tenderness
- changes in voice
- a lump or mass in the neck
- persistent bad breath
It is important to visit your dentist regularly so that a complete oral exam can be performed and any abnormalities can be detected. If you notice something that does not appear normal and it has not cleared up within 14 days you should see your doctor.
NIHA dental patients are screened at their preventive Dental care maintenance appointments. If an abnormality is detected we use a more advanced screening tool called Vizilite® Plus to allow us to identify the abnormality within the oral cavity in its earlier stages.
Laurie DeRosa, RDH, is a Registered Dental Hygienist with the biological dentistry group at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, an integrative medicine and dental center serving the Washington DC metro area. Using the latest in dental technology, her goal is to help the dental patient understand the important connection between their oral health and their overall health.