Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers. Oral cancer may not always be noticeable by patients, as symptoms are not always present in early stages. Early detection and treatment has a very high success and survival rate, so it is very important to have regular checkups to monitor for signs of oral cancers.
Oral cancer is a very important issue for men’s health since males are twice as likely as females to be diagnosed with oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Studies are continuing to research any genetic or biological factors that can influence an individual’s predisposition for oral cancer. Some of the factors that are associated with oral cancer include:
- Age – most individuals who receive a diagnosis are over the age of 40
- Tobacco use (includes cigarettes, “smokeless” or e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco
- Exposure to UV radiation
- Persistent infections from certain viruses such as HPV
Possible Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer are sometimes subtle and unnoticeable to people. During your regular exam and checkup with your dentist, you can help identify and symptoms or risk factors by reviewing the following:
- Let your dentist know if you have noticed any sores or discoloration in your mouth that does not go away after 2 weeks
- Presence of lumps or masses in the mouth or neck area
- Pain or difficulty swallowing, chewing or speaking
- Wart-like or other unusual growths in the mouth
- Numbness in the mouth area
Referral to your Physician or a Specialist
It is important to note that dentists do not make diagnoses for oral cancer. However, your dental professional is in a position to notice symptoms or warning signs early on, before you may even be aware. If your dentist lets you know they have noticed something that may be a sign or symptom, it is important not to panic. In some cases the signs and symptoms of oral cancer may be the result of something unrelated. However, it is important to listen and act if your dentist recommends that you see your regular physician or a specialist to examine and possibly conduct a biopsy on something that looks suspicious.