On average, more than 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, and of those nearly 10,000 will die from the disease. The relatively high mortality rate is not due to the difficulty in diagnosing the disease but due to the fact that it is usually diagnosed in the advanced stages.
Like many cancers, mouth cancer does not often cause pain in the early stages. Your dentist should be able to spot any warning signs when you go for your regular check ups. It is also important to look for any changes to the soft pink tissue inside your mouth while you are brushing or flossing your teeth. If you detect any changes, book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
Early signs of oral cancer include:
- Lumps or sores anywhere in your mouth or throat
- Swelling or areas of thick tissue
- Red or white lesions
- Pain, numbness, or tenderness anywhere in your mouth
- Pain in one of your ears without any change in hearing
- Difficulties with moving your jaw, chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Loose teeth with no dental cause
- Lingering sore throat or hoarse voice
If you notice any of these symptoms then make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
If your dentist detects abnormal tissue inside your mouth then they will refer you for a biopsy. At this point the professional oral surgeons at San Jose will be ready to continue your treatment.
The oral surgeons at San Jose provide a variety of biopsy services. Biopsies are simple procedures where the surgeon will take a small sample of cells from the abnormal area. It is a minor outpatient procedure that may only require a local anaesthetic.
The surgeon may only need to take a swab sample or surface scrape of the area. In most cases though, the surgeon will use a puncture tool or make a small incision to take a sample. The sample will then be sent to the lab to be analysed and diagnosed to determine the reason for the abnormality.
More often than not, the results reveal benign conditions (not cancerous) such as fungal infections, herpes, or salivary problems. If cancer is detected then the surgeons, your dentist and oncologist will work together with you to remove all the cancerous cells.
How is oral cancer treated?
In most cases the surgeon may only need to make an incision to remove the tumor and any other abnormal cells in your mouth. This type of surgery is also an outpatient procedure. You may only need a local anaesthetic or in some cases sedation, depending on the size and stage of the cancer. You will have an opportunity to discuss the anesthesia options with your surgeon before the procedure.
It is very important to diagnose oral cancer in it’s early stages before it has a larger impact on your health and quality of life. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above them book an appointment immediately with your dentist and ask for a referral to San Jose. The practice welcomes new patients and accepts most insurance plans.