Posts for tag: oral cancer
We are shedding a light on this life-threatening form of cancer.
We don’t often talk about oral cancer as much as we do other types of cancer; however, it doesn’t make this form of cancer any less dangerous. What makes it so dangerous is that oral cancer usually isn’t detected during the early stages when it’s highly curable. Luckily, our Marietta, GA, dentist Dr. D. Casey Hart offers a simple test that could pinpoint the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer before it has a chance to get worse.
What are the warnings signs of oral cancer?
Sometimes oral cancer won’t cause symptoms, especially during the early stages; however, some people may notice these signs and symptoms,
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- Ulcers or sores that don’t heal
- Pain or tenderness anywhere in the mouth
- A lump or sore in the throat, lips or mouth
While these are symptoms of oral cancer it is important to recognize that having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have oral cancer. There are other conditions that can also cause similar symptoms; however, if you do notice any changes to your gums or oral tissue it’s best to schedule an evaluation with our Marietta family dentist.
What is involved in an oral cancer screening?
This screening is non-invasive and fast, only taking a couple of minutes to perform. In most cases, our dentist will perform this screening during your six-month cleaning (another reason why you shouldn’t skip out on these routine dental checkups). This screening involves examining and inspecting all tissue within the mouth, including the lips and tongue, to look for any changes or warning signs.
Are there risk factors for oral cancer?
There are certain factors that can increase your risk for oral cancer. These risk factors include,
- Heavy alcohol consumption or alcohol misuse
- Tobacco use
- Age: The risk for oral cancer increases with age
- HPV infection: Some strains of this sexually transmitted disease can cause oral cancer
- A history of sun exposure: this includes working outdoors
- Sex: Men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women
If you haven’t kept up with your routine dental cleanings and checkups it’s never too late to start. Call our Marietta, GA, practice today at (770) 926-8371 to schedule your next prophylactic cleaning and oral cancer screening. Taking these simple measures now could greatly improve your health.
A half million people are diagnosed every year with oral cancer. While other cancers are more prevalent, oral cancer is among the most dangerous with only a fifty percent five-year survival rate.
A major reason for this low rate is because this fast growing cancer is difficult to detect early — diagnosis comes far too often after the disease has already well advanced. In an effort to detect cancer earlier many dentists visually screen for oral abnormalities during checkups, especially patients over fifty, tobacco or heavy alcohol users, patients with a family history of cancer or a medical history of exposure to the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, HPV-16.
If they detect an abnormality, the dentist often refers the patient to an oral surgeon or other specialist for a possible biopsy. In this procedure the surgeon removes a sample of the abnormal tissue, which is then examined microscopically for cancer cells. A biopsy remains the most effective way to diagnose oral cancer.
Because of the disease's aggressive nature, many dentists lean to the side of caution when referring patients for biopsy. As a result 90% of oral biopsies reveal no cancer. Reducing the number of biopsy referrals is highly desirable, especially for the patient undergoing the procedure. Tissue samples tend to be large to ensure complete detection of any cancer cells. Depending on the size and location of the sample, there may be a risk for loss of function or disfigurement.
A new screening tool using a sample of a patient's saliva could help reduce the number of biopsy referrals. Besides DNA, saliva also contains dormant genes called biomarkers that activate in response to the presence of a specific disease. This particular saliva test identifies those biomarkers for oral cancer if they're present.
A sample with a low score of biomarkers indicates no cancer present (with a statistical confidence of 99%). A medium or high score indicates cancer may be present, but only a biopsy can determine for sure. Using this test, dentists might be able to reduce the number of biopsy referrals and instead be able to employ watchful waiting in certain cases. Because of its simplicity and non-invasiveness, saliva screening could help identify oral cancer earlier.
Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.
As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.
Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.
Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.
Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”