Oral cancer is an abnormal growth of body cells in any part of the oral cavity. The oral cavity consists of the lips, cheek lining, salivary glands, tonsils, gums, above and below the gums and soft palate.
According to the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research, approximately 36,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and 7,900 will die from the disease. 61% of the individuals diagnosed with this disease will survive more than 5 years.
When the cancer is detected early, the chances of successful treatments are high. In fact, with early detection of the death risks are dramatically reduced. As a result, it’s critical to stay current with dental check-ups and to detect any abnormalities.
The skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people should practice head-to-toe self-examinations, this way you can notice anything abnormal on the body. If you can understand the factors that increase the oral cancer risk it can help motivate a healthier lifestyle.
Examine the roof of your mouth by grabbing a mirror, tilting your head back and look for any discolorations. Wash your hands and gently press the top of your mouth to feel for tenderness or painful areas.
Also, make sure to check the tongue and the floor of the mouth. Look for bumps, masses and skin discoloration.
If you find any questionable discolorations, tenderness, and abnormalities in the areas mentioned above, advice your doctors. Although many of these symptoms are not always cancerous, remaining attentive will help you stay healthy.
Tobacco – Tobacco is a risk factor for over 25 bodily diseases. According to the American Lung Association, there are at least 69 chemicals in cigarettes that have been found to cause cancer, including ammonia, acetone, carbon monoxide and tar.
Alcohol – Alcohol is the second largest risk factor in the development of oral cancer. Individuals who excessively drink are likely to develop oral cancer along with many other health complications. Alcohol is converted in the body as a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. This chemical is a poison for the body that causes cell damage.
Personal History – If oral cancer runs in the family, the chances of contracting it are slightly higher. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, some genetic mutations in the body may carry a high-risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer in a patient.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – These viruses are passed through sexual contact. Oral cancers that start at the tip of the tongue, the back of the throat, or the tonsils are typically linked to HPV. Every day in the United States over 12,000 people (ages 15-24) are infected with HPV- some might not even know they have it!
Poor Diet – Up to half of all mouth cancers are linked to poor diet. This is triggered by a lack of vitamins and minerals that help fight off diseases. Eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables that are filled with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B, D and folic acid can help maintain healthy teeth.
Many times these symptoms can signify other health issues besides oral cancer. If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor or dentist to get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment if needed. Your doctor can help you learning to distinguish non-cancerous symptoms such as a canker sore (usually painful, but not malignant).
Dental professionals recommend a regular 6-month checkup to rule out any symptoms and if they’re cancerous or not.
If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, a doctor may recommend chemotherapy, radiation or surgery – or some combination of these treatments.
The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can vary for each person. The most common side effects are tooth decay, tooth pain, sore gums, hair loss, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing or eating food, and many others.
After chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, a regular check-up is conducted to prevent cancer from relapsing. During your next dental visit with Dr. Andrey Rossius, go over any health concerns. Learn about the available options and have an appropriate cancer screening every 6 months (most screenings consist of a thorough examination of the head, neck, and mouth).
If your doctor suspects that you may have oral cancer, they will take a sample of the questionable tissue for laboratory testing called a biopsy. If diagnosed, the doctor will work with the patient to determine the stage of cancer and will provide further steps.
Brushing your teeth and gums twice a day will help maintain a healthy mouth. Using a soft toothbrush is key to preventing scrapes or injury to the mouth. Familiarize yourself with the right brushing techniques by holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and moving it in a circular motion along the gum line.
Flossing your teeth daily and after every meal promotes healthier gums. Using a fluoride toothpaste or a special sensitive toothpaste suggested by a dental professional are other ways to ensure a healthy mouth. Lastly, using mouthwash daily can maintain your oral health by preventing gingivitis and other complications.
Knowing the causes of oral cancer as stated above will reduce the risk of getting oral cancer and continue to enhance your beautiful smile!
Schedule a regular hygiene visit with Dr. Andrey Rossius to have a proper screening. He will assist you in creating a preventative regimen that will benefit your oral health. Call today if you have any questions or concerns in regards to your oral health or preventing oral cancer.
Dr. Andrey Rossius
3665 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd
Westlake Village, CA