About oral cancer screenings
Just as we screen for other types of cancers, oral cancers should be screened annually beginning around the age of 18. If you use tobacco products, screening should begin at the age you begin tobacco use. Oral cancer screenings are quick, painless, and noninvasive. The goal of an oral cancer screening is to identify any signs of precancerous conditions early, when there is a greater chance for successful treatment.
Symptoms of oral cancer include
- Persistent tongue or jaw pain
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- White or red patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- A lump, cyst, or thickening on the inside of the mouth
How do you get oral cancer?
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth: on the surface of the tongue, the lips, inside the cheek, in the gums, in the tonsils, in the salivary glands, and on the roof and floor of the mouth. It can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
Cancers found in the front of the mouth are often seen with the naked eye and result from tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, or a genetic predisposition. Cancers found in the back of the mouth, known as the oropharynx, can be caused by tobacco use and the HPV16 virus, which is associated with cervical and other cancers. Do not skip these crucial screenings even if you do not use tobacco products, because problems can still exist in your mouth that you can’t see and may be caused by other factors.
Some causes of oral cancer include
- Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, and pipe smokers are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers.
- Smokeless tobacco. Dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco users are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips than nonusers.
- Alcohol. Oral cancers are 6 times more common in heavy drinkers.
- Family history. A family predisposition may put you at higher risk for oral cancer.
- Excessive sun exposure. The skin on your lips should be protected whenever possible by using sunscreen lip products or staying in the shade.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can infect the mouth or throat and cause oral cancers.
While tobacco and excessive alcohol use increase your oral cancer risk, over 25% of oral cancers occur in individuals who do not smoke or drink alcohol. It is important to be screened during regular dental visits whether or not you smoke or drink.
Oral cancer treatment
Your treatment will depend on your specific condition and the stage at which the cancer was found. Common treatments for mouth cancer include
- Surgery. If cancer is present in a tumor, the tumor can be surgically removed.
- Radiation therapy. External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy are two common treatments for mouth cancer.
- Chemotherapy. This is often combined with radiation therapy to attack cancer cells at varying stages of their growth cycles and decrease the chance of drug resistance.
- Targeted drug therapy. This treatment interferes with cancer cell growth on a molecular level.
- Immunotherapy. These drugs help the body’s immune system to identify and kill cancer cells.
Oral cancer screenings in North Las Vegas, NV
The easiest and most effective way to treat oral cancer is to catch it early. To learn more about oral cancer screenings or to schedule your appointment, please contact our office in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Our friendly staff is here to help.