Who is At Risk for Oral Cancer?

The diagnosis of any type of cancer can be a very scary and intimidating fate to face. However, when it comes to oral cancer, there are a lot of questions, myths, and anxieties that don’t exist with other types of the aggressive illness. Part of this comes as a result of the fact that oral cancer is still somewhat misunderstood, even by the professionals. No one is entirely sure why it affects one person, but skips over another.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that oral cancer is not contagious. You will not pass the condition to a loved one who inspects the signs of the condition. However, there are certain risk factors that will make you and anyone else more susceptible to it. For instance, the continued use of tobacco products is significantly linked with oral cancer. This makes perfect sense really. There are known carcinogens in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The first point of impact that they make with the body is in the mouth. Even those without this bad habit can be at an increased risk, however, especially is they frequently partake in alcoholic beverages or spend extended periods of time in the sun. Sun exposure can leave the lips – often the first point of impact with oral cancer – in the direct path of UV rays, known to be a cause of cancer. Another high risk group are those who have had certain varieties of cancer in the past, including head, neck, skin, and oral cancers.

The fact that oral cancer is so difficult to predict is just one more reason to continue with regular dentist visits. Proper oral hygiene can stave off the sores and infections linked with oral cancer and the dental check-ups can ensure that any problems are caught in their earliest stages. The need for a more urgent visit can be dictated by the appearance of patches of abnormally color skin on the lips or within the mouth. They can be red, white, or a combination of both. Other symptoms of oral cancer include wounds in the mouth that won’t heal, bleeding, the sudden loosening of teeth, difficulty swallowing, an unusual discomfort when wearing existing dentures, a lump in neck (swollen lymph nodes), or a persistent ear ache that is not resolved with antibiotics.

If cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the affected tissue will likely be performed. If sores or skin patches are not the reason for concern, the dentist may order x-rays, and MRI, or a CT scan, depending on the problematic location. The dentist will typically refer the patient, immediately, to a specialist and if the feared diagnosis is confirmed, then he or she will likely be introduced to a team of doctors capable of handling surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – the use of one or a combination of these treatments will depend on the severity of the condition.

The wonderful news about oral cancer is that it can often be cured. However, the chances of this greatly decline if a person waits too long to be treated. If you suspect that you may have oral cancer, speak to a Waco dentist immediately.

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