Cancer is without a doubt a scary disease, and our mouth is unfortunately not immune to it. Like other types of cancer, oral cancer can be fatal. It is therefore important to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms, as well as the risk factors associated with them. By focusing on prevention and early detection we can better protect ourselves.
Facts and figures about oral cancer
Oral cancer can originate in different parts of the oral cavity, especially on the lips, but also inside the mouth, on the gums, in the palate, throat and tonsils. It is a sneaky disease since it causes little or no symptoms when in the early stages.
The Canadian Cancer Society estimated that in 2017, 4,700 Canadians would be diagnosed with this disease, while 1,250 people died in Canada from it during the same period.
As with most types of cancer, the survival prognosis drops dramatically as oral cancer develops and spreads. Thus, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with this disease and to be able to do the right thing in terms of screening!
The symptoms of oral cancer
As oral cancer develops, it causes the appearance of various signs and symptoms which should prompt you to consult a dentist without delay:
- Reddish or whitish spots that appear on the lips, tongue or other soft tissue inside the mouth;
- Lesions that may resemble an oral ulcer that persist for more than two weeks;
- Abnormal bleeding from the lips or inside the mouth;
- Pain while chewing or ingesting beverages and food;
- The presence of one or more masses in the mouth region;
- Persistent pain in the throat.
Who is at risk?
You should always watch for the symptoms mentioned above, especially if you are someone who is at high risk. Age is the leading risk factor for oral cancer, as its occurrence increases significantly after the age of 40. Men are also 2 to 3 times more likely than women to get oral cancer. Heredity factors is another risk to consider.
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION and TOBACCO are two other important risk factors. It is better to reduce alcohol consumption, as well as to avoid tobacco products. People who regularly drink and smoke are at increased risk of developing oral cancer.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of cancers of the oral cavity related to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is a sexually transmitted infection that is associated with different types of cancer, including cancer of the cervix, anal cancer, and cancers of the oral cavity.
For cancer screening, do not neglect your visits to the dentist
As mentioned earlier, oral cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, making it difficult to screen for symptoms that are self-evident. Thanks to their training and experience, your dentist is able to thoroughly examine all the tissues in your mouth to detect any abnormal signs. It is therefore of primary importance to visit your dentist regularly for your routine check-ups.
At Centre Dentaire NP, our dentists are proud to use VELscope. This revolutionary device is based on the use of natural photoluminescence of the cells of the mouth to detect the presence of lesions or precancerous conditions that are invisible to the naked eye. This allows us to detect the disease while it is in an early stage! We use the VELscope for cancer screening during your routine visits. In case of concern, do not hesitate to make an appointment with our team.