It has a higher death rate than cervical cancer, skin cancer, and testicular cancer. It isn’t as common as breast cancer or lung cancer, but it is no less deadly. It is oral cancer, and this year alone it will be diagnosed in an average of 43,250 men and women in America. Polk City, IA dentist Dr. Ryan Hussong reminds his patients that oral cancer screening is an important part of your twice-yearly dental checkup and cleaning.
Head and Neck Cancers and Risks
Oral cancer falls under the label of head and neck cancers, which includes those affecting the tongue, lips, throat, and mouth. Head and neck cancers once appeared more frequently in older adults, although the number of young adults diagnosed with the disease has increased in the past decade. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that a higher incidence of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus is partially to blame. Tobacco use among younger adults and teens has increased, too, a habit that significantly increases the risk of developing some form of oral cancer. Dr. Hussong points out that chewing and smoking tobacco also stains teeth, makes you more susceptible to tooth decay, and increases your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Know the Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Of the tens of thousands of patients diagnosed with oral cancer each year, just over half–57% to be exact–will survive another five years. The problem, says Dr. Hussong, is not that the symptoms of oral cancer are especially difficult to diagnose. Instead, the greatest challenge is that this form of cancer is not always discovered in its earliest stages. It is not until the patient presents with severe symptoms that the disease is diagnosed. By that time, it has usually spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the lymph nodes. It is reasonable, then, to state that the chances of early detection are improved by regular dental exams and screening.
The most frequently reported oral cancer symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blisters or sores inside the mouth that do not heal after 14 days
- Irregular red or white splotches inside the mouth
- Chronic or recurrent hoarseness
- Painful lumps or masses in the mouth, throat, or neck
Prevention and early detection of oral cancer saves lives. To learn more about oral cancer and periodontal disease screening, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Alleman, Ames, Ankeny, Grimes, West Des Moines, and the surrounding cities.