Oral cancer is a rare condition for residents in the Jackson, MS area, but it’s frequently diagnosed late, making treatment less successful, reducing long-term survival rates. Getting a late diagnosis can give a survival rate of just 50% after five years. However early diagnosis can make sure treatment is a lot more successful, and can mean it is a lot less invasive.
Oral Cancer Checks at the Dentist
Getting checked for oral cancer is an important part of regular dental checkups, and most dentists perform at least a yearly check on patients. This involves looking closely at the color and texture of oral tissues, including the tongue, and feeling the neck area to make sure there aren’t any lumps or enlarged lymph glands. If the dentist suspects anything may be wrong then they’ll take a small sample or biopsy of tissue to be sent off for tests before deciding on an appropriate course of treatment.
Who is Most at Risk for Developing Oral Cancer?
Known risk factors for oral cancer are excess alcohol and tobacco use, but approximately a quarter of people diagnosed with this condition have never smoked or used alcohol to excess. During the past few years more women have begun developing oral cancer, something which is thought to be due to the fact that more women smoke regularly nowadays.
Keeping an Eye out for Signs of Oral Cancer in between Checkups
Although regular dental checkups are a great way of detecting oral cancer early on, it’s also worthwhile being aware of some of the symptoms to look out for. Common symptoms can include noticing changes in the color of oral tissues; this can mean they develop white or red spots. Another common symptom is developing sore spots or ulcerated areas which fail to heal properly. Oral tissues can also change in texture and thickness, as they may develop rough spots or thickened areas. Sometimes oral cancer can affect the way the teeth meet together, as the cancer can push the teeth out of place making it difficult or uncomfortable to bite or chew. It can also make it difficult to move the jaw normally, or can result in an unexplained weight loss.
It can be a good idea to regularly check oral tissues and the tongue, as you get used to noticing what is normal and what isn’t and will be more aware if anything happens to change. If you do notice anything untoward, then it’s well worth asking Dr. Watson for advice. You could also help yourself by making sure you have a good diet, as this is well known in helping to prevent cancers, and by cutting down on excess alcohol usage or by giving up smoking.