Your dentist is your first line of defense for screening. Oral cancer examinations by your dentist are quick, painless and crucial to detecting it in its early stages. It’s included as part of your bi-annual visits, so don’t skip out on an appointment.
Oral cancer has a five-year survival rate as low as 60%. If this condition is caught early enough, the chances of successful treatment are high.
Most at risk
Men over 40 years old have the greatest risk of being diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area. Tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chew, and smokeless tobacco increase your risk of oral cancer. Heavy alcohol use also increases the chances, and the combination of the two factors is the riskiest category.
What you eat, or don’t eat, can affect your cancer risk as well. Make sure you’re getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day to limit cancer risks.
Avoid sun exposure to your lips to limit the chances of cancer on the lips. Use a lip balm with SPF every day, and especially when you’re out playing golf, on a boat, or at the pool when sun exposure is highest.
Your dentist performs a screening every time you get a routine cleaning. Mouth cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, and throat, as well as the salivary glands, pharynx, larynx and sinuses.
Dentists check your lips and face, palpate the neck and jaw area, and examine the top and bottom of your tongue. Ask your dentist about any strange symptoms you might have noticed so you can discuss warning signs.
Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms, especially ones that persist for more than two weeks.
- Sores anywhere in your mouth
- Lumpy or thick patches of skin anywhere in your mouth or throat
- Red or white lesions in your mouth or on your lips
- Numbness or tingly pain anywhere in your mouth
- Problems chewing, swallowing or speaking
- Lingering sore throat or hoarseness that persists beyond normal