Oral Cancer Examinations

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Oral Cancer Examinations

Oral cancer starts in the cells of the mouth, tongue or throat. Oral cancer screening is usually a routine part of a dental examination. In this exam, your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and inside your mouth. Your dentist will also look for sores or discolored tissue in your mouth.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer refers to all cancers of the oral cavity, which includes the following:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • teeth
  • gums (gingiva)
  • lining inside the lips and cheeks (labial mucosa and buccal mucosa)
  • floor of the mouth
  • roof of the mouth (palate)
  • the area behind the wisdom teeth

Most oral cancers are located on the sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth and lips.

Oral cancer starts in the cells of the mouth. Normally these cells are quite resistant to damage, but repeated injury from smoking, alcohol or even friction may cause sores or painful areas where cancer can start.

Symptoms

Oral cancer symptoms include:

  • a sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • a lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat
  • a white or red patch on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth
  • unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth
  • a sore throat that does not go away, or a feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing
  • swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • a change in the voice and/or pain in the ear

Smoking and chewing tobacco — particularly if combined with heavy alcohol consumptionRisk Factors

  • Heavy alcohol consumption— particularly if combined with smoking
  • Excessive sun exposure particularly to the lip
  • Age people over the age of 40 have a higher risk of developing oral cance
  • Gender men are more susceptible than women to developing oral cancer. In the past, men had a 6:1 ratio of incidence of oral cancer compared to women. However; this ratio is narrowing and is now closer to a 2:1 ratio
  • HPV more research is emerging that connects human papillomavirus infection — especially HPV-16 — with oral cancers
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables fruit and vegetables have a protective factor that is believed to reduce the risk for oral cancers
  • See a dental professional for a regular dental exam
  • Quitting (or reducing) your tobacco and alcohol use lowers your risk of developing oral cancer
  • When you are outside and exposed to the sun, use lip balm with UV protection and wear a hat
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily

The mouth has long been recognized as a mirror reflecting the health of the body. With regular visits to your dentist and good oral health routines, you will have lots to smile about.

Frequently Asked Questions

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