April 13, 2019
Many people are aware of the importance of getting screened for skin, colon and breast cancer, but you don’t hear about oral cancer as often. Oral cancer rates have increased in recent years and it’s even been found in young people who don’t smoke. As with any cancer, screening and early detection is one of the best ways to improve the prognosis. In fact, the survival rate is 85-90% when oral cancer is found early. Fortunately, screenings are easy to get because every checkup with a dentist in Homer Glen includes one. Learn more below about this important topic and find out how simple screenings are. You’ll be taking an important step towards better oral and overall health!
What Causes Oral Cancer and How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
The most common risk factors for oral cancer are:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- A weakened immune system
- Heavy drinking
In addition, a type of skin cancer called melanoma can occur on the border of the lips, so frequent sunburns or failing to wear SPF lip protection can also increase your risk. Also, it’s worth noting that people can develop oral cancer – even if they have none of these risk factors.
Along with early detection, prevention efforts are the best way to combat this disease. First, eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and either don’t start using tobacco or look into a cessation aid to help you quit.
It’s also a good idea to wear a lip balm with sun protection and minimize prolonged sun exposure. And limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
And, finally, be sure to get screened regularly by scheduling bi-annual checkups!
What Is a Screening Like?
One of the best things about an oral cancer screening is that it’s simple, non-invasive, and convenient. Both a dentist and hygienist will start by looking closely at your lips, cheeks, throat, palate, and under your tongue.
Some dentists also use an additional tool called a Vizi-Lite to help them perform thorough oral cancer screenings. This special light helps them see potentially suspicious areas that they can’t see with their eyes alone.
Also, you may be asked if you’ve noticed any of the following signs or symptoms at home:
- A persistent sore throat.
- A lump or bump that you didn’t have before.
- A chronic feeling that something is stuck in your throat.
- Any sores or lesions that haven’t healed on their own within two weeks.
- Pain or difficulty when chewing or swallowing.
- Stiffness or pain in the jaw.
However, remember that there are many non-cancerous oral health conditions that can appear worrisome, such as a lump of fatty tissue or cold sore, so don’t panic if you notice something.
Just call to schedule an evaluation so that the issue can either be diagnosed as something benign or referred to a specialist for further evaluation.
The importance of early detection can’t be stressed enough. Luckily, it’s as easy as scheduling regular checkups!
About the Author
Dr. Alan R. DeAngelo is an award-winning family dentist in Homer Glen and a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. He knows that oral cancer screenings save lives and always takes the time to thoroughly examine each patient at every checkup. If you have any other questions about oral cancer or would like to schedule a checkup, he can be reached through his website.
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