Spotting Oral Cancer

Soft Tissue Examination

oral cancer
All of us have to worry about tooth decay, but after the age of 40, the risk for an even more serious condition increases dramatically: oral cancer!

Ten thousand people die from oral cancer each year, with 95% of them over the age of 40.

Cancer can strike any part of the mouth, including the lips and tongue. If the cancer is not detected early, tumors can grow deep into local tissues and spread to lymph glands in the neck. The risk for oral cancer increases with age and alcohol and tobacco use.

By having regular visits, your dentist can detect oral cancer at a stage when it can be more successfully treated.

You can help, too. When brushing and flossing, check for red or white patches in your mouth. Look for tender or numb areas, sores that don't heal, and lumps or rough spots.

If you detect any of these signs or symptoms, call your dentist at once.

Oral cancer represents approximately 3% of all cancers. There are 30,000 new cases of diagnosed every year in the United States. The single greatest risk factor responsible for oral cancer is tobacco products of all types including  cigarette, cigar, and pipe tobacco as well as chewing tobacco. 

Heavy alcohol usage is an additional contributing factor. Lip cancer which is included as an oral cancer is usually caused by the sun and pipe smoking. 

Cancers of the mouth have different appearance. Of particular concern is any persistent white patch. Other suspicious area may appear as  velvety red patches, those patches that have white speckles in them, should be areas of particular concern. Ulcers or erosions that do not heal should by checked by a dentist. Many of these lesions are painless and are often ignored or not noticed, your dentist should look for these areas during regular dental check ups.

Most Oral Cancers occur on the tongue. Most cancers of the tongue are located on the side of the tongue as it approaches the throat. The floor of the mouth ranks next as the most common location for Oral Cancers followed by the insidesof the cheeks;  other areas show a lesser incidence.

Self-examination of your mouth is advised. Since  some areas are not easily viewed and for that reason regular examination at your semi-annual check-ups byyour dentist is highly recommended.

Should a suspicious area appear in between regular dental appointments it is recommended that you make an appointment for evaluation by your dentist. Your dentist will refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for evaluation and possible biopsy if he feels that it is indicated. A biopsy can be performed as an office procedure; the surgeon will take a small piece of the tissue in the area of concern for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.

Always err on the side of caution. Do not be overly alarmed by every white area inthe mouth nor by every ulcer. As with other parts of the body most can be caused by a multitude of harmless causes.

Treatment of oral cancer is best undertaken at the earliest stage. Early detection  results in the best chances for successful treatment. Small areas can sometimes be treated by radiation or surgery. Once an area of cancer becomes large, it will often result in major surgery and require radiation and chemo-therapy. 

Prevention is always the best approach. Not only will stopping the use of Tabasco Products reduce your risk for Oral Cancer it will also benefit your overall health. 

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Some information on this page by Dr. Gregg Bobier

Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD
2009 Birdcreek Terrace Temple, TX 76502 254.773.9007 | Fax 254.773.8051
©2004 Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD | Online since 1996 | Updated Continuously