Oral cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the mouth. It can affect any part of the mouth, including the lips, the tongue, the gums, the roof of the mouth, the cheeks, and the throat. Like any other type of cancer, oral cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the bones, the lungs, the brain, or the lymph nodes. It can affect people of any age but occurs most often in people over the age of 40. In children, it rarely occurs before the age of 10.
Who Is At Risk For Oral Cancer?
Everyone is at risk for oral cancer. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s risk.
- Age: People over the age of 40 are at an increased risk for oral cancer.
- Smoking:Smoking cigarettes and cigars greatly increase your risk for oral cancer. In fact, people who smoke are six times more likely to get oral cancer.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: People who consume alcohol excessively, like heavy drinkers, are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Risk Assessment
At Desert Mountain Dental, we conduct oral cancer risk assessments as part of routine dental checkups. Your dentist is trained to look for signs of oral cancer during your regular checkup. During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will examine your face, neck, lips, and tongue for signs of unusual growths. They look for abnormal tissue, sores, lumps, and discolored tissue. If your dentist finds anything suspicious during your routine examination, they may recommend additional tests like a biopsy.
How Is Oral Cancer Treated?
Treatment for oral cancer typically involves a surgical procedure to remove the tumor from the mouth. If this occurs, a biopsy may be conducted as well.
Other treatments include:
- Radiotherapy (often referred to as radiation therapy)
- Targeted therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
Oral cancer screenings are extremely important. Patients should get checked regularly by a dental professional to ensure early detection, which can greatly increase the survival rate.
Oral Cancer Recovery Process
Oral cancer can be life-threatening, so early detection and treatment are critical. If oral cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 80 percent or higher. However, the survival rate drops to 50 percent if the cancer is diagnosed late.
When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment often requires a simple in-office procedure. This can include topical medications, surgery, radiation therapy, or a combination of these.
How Can I Protect Myself From Oral Cancer?
The best way to prevent oral cancer is to practice good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups are the three most important things you can do for your oral health.
During your cleanings, we will remove any suspicious growths, called lesions, from your mouth. Lesions are most often not cancerous, but it’s important to have them checked. If oral cancer does develop, catching it early greatly improves your chance of successful treatment.
To learn about our dental procedures, call Desert Mountain Dental at (520) 324-0100 and schedule an appointment or visit our Tucson dental office.