There are about 43,000 people diagnosed with oral cancer in the U.S. each year, and it causes about 8,000 deaths annually, with only a 57 percent 5-year survival rate. Despite advances in cancer treatment over the past few decades, the survival rate for this cancer has remained dismally low. This may be partly due to the fact that oral cancers are often difficult to diagnose, and many people don’t realize they have a problem until it has progressed to a late stage.
Getting Checked for Oral Cancer
For most patients the best way to discover potential problems is at your regular dental visits, which you should be getting every six months. The tissues inside your mouth are lined with mucosa that is smooth and pink when it’s healthy, and alterations to this tissue can be an indication of a problem or a warning sign for cancer. If you notice any of the following symptoms, talk to your dentist immediately:
- Red or white patches inside the mouth that do not go away
- A sore that does not heal after more than a couple of weeks
- Mouth sores that bleed easily or do not appear to get better over time
- Lump or thickening area in the skin lining inside your mouth
- Chronic sore throat, hoarseness, or difficulty chewing and swallowing
These changes might be on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue, around the teeth, tongue, face, or neck. While you may not experience pain with some of these symptoms, significant or chronic pain in your face, jaw, mouth, or neck area should be addressed with your physician or your dentist.
You are at a particularly high risk of developing oral cancer if you are older (it’s most common in individuals over 40), you previously or currently smoke or use tobacco, you consume a high volume of alcohol, and/or you have persistent viral infections such as HPV (human papillomavirus).
Contact Us Today
Patients who notice any of these signs, whether during routine oral care or during self-examinations, should contact the office of Drs. Bryan and Steven Christensen right away. Ignoring suspicious lumps or sores will not make it go away, and in many cases it will increase the chances that the cancer develops into the late stages when it is more difficult to treat.
The earlier you can catch oral cancer, the better chance you have of successful treatment. Contact our offices today at 801-269-1110 to schedule an appointment, get a checkup or a biopsy, and ask questions.