Recent data from the Canadian Cancer Society states that nearly 5,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. The American Cancer Society has quoted approximately 30,000 cases of oral cancer over the same period. With over 23% of these cases resulting in a fatality, there is a clear call to action to add oral cancer screening to your annual health and wellness plan. Fortunately, oral cancer can be diagnosed early with an annual cancer exam.
This exam is especially necessary, given that oral cancer is a pathologic process, which begins by producing no symptoms making it hard to recognize without an exam. What Types
What Types of Oral Cancer Are There?
There are many places in which oral cancer can occur, including the tongue, salivary glands, throat, gums, and face. Below are some of the more common forms:
At the center of your tooth is pulp. Pulp is a collection of blood vessels that helps to build the surrounding tooth. Infection of the pulp can be caused by trauma to the tooth, deep decay, cracks and chips, or repeated dental procedures. Symptoms of the infection can be identified as visible injury or swelling of the tooth, sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums.
- Malignant Squamous Cell Carcinoma - this is the most common form of oral cancer. It typically originates in the lip and within the mouth tissue.
What Can You Expect from an Oral Cancer Screening at Our Vancouver Clinic?
The examination is completely painless. We will look for abnormalities and feel the face, glands, and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers may be used to highlight pathologic changes, and can “look” below the surface for spots and lesions invisible to the naked eye. Some of the signs that will be investigated are red patches and sores. Red patches on the floor of the mouth, or the front of the tongue, and bleeding sores which fail to heal easier, can be indicative of cancerous changes. Leukoplakia is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear inside the mouth, and may be cancerous. Signs of these will be examined as well. Finally, soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathologic signs, and will be examined.
What Happens Next if Oral Cancer is Found After Screening?
If abnormalities, lesions, lumps, or leukoplakia are apparent, our Vancouver clinic will implement a treatment plan that is right for you. It is also important to note that over 75% of oral cancers
are linked with avoidable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.
What Warning Signs Should One Look For?
The warning signs of oral cancer can be summarized as follows:
- an ulceration in the mouth that does not heal (most common symptom)
- an area of leukoplakia (white in color) or erythoplakia (red in color) on the gingiva, tongue, tonsil, or oral mucosa that persists
- a lump or thickening in the cheek
- a sore throat or globus sensation (feeling that something is caught in the throat)
- difficulty chewing with or without dysphagia
- increasing trismus and or decreasing tongue mobility
- sensory changes in the tongue or other oral structures
- swelling of edentulous areas that cause dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
- increasing tooth mobility or pain associated with the teeth or jaw
- a lump or mass in the neck
- uncharacteristic weight loss
If you have any questions about oral cancer screening and treatment, contact Vancouver Dental Specialty Clinic at at 604-336-0958.