Oral cancer is one of the diseases that we see most often here at Dental Specialty Associates. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, over 48,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone. And while oral cancer has a pretty great survival rate when detected early — usually about 80-90% — that rate goes down the longer the disease goes undetected.
Here are some warning signs of oral cancer that you should keep an eye out for. Schedule an appointment with us right away if you notice any of these symptoms:
1. White or Red Lesions
Any open sore or lesion in the mouth should be watched carefully. It could just be a cold sore, or it could be an indication of a more serious condition. White lesions, or leukoplakia, are the more common of the two types, and are more likely to be caused by something other than oral cancer. Like if you accidentally bite your cheek while chewing. Red lesions, or erythroplakia, are less common and are more likely to be a sign of oral cancer.
Any lesion that does not heal or resolve itself within 2 weeks should be a cause for concern. Tell your dentist right away if you notice a lesion or sore that lasts longer than 2 weeks. Your dentist may order a biopsy of the lesion to determine whether or not the tissue is cancer.
2. Lumps or Thickening of Oral Tissues
The tissues of your mouth, gums, tongue, and hard and soft palettes are typically soft and smooth. Tell your dentist right away if you notice unusual lumps or thickening of the tissues in your mouth, as this could be an indication of cancerous or precancerous growth.
3. Soreness or Feeling of Something in the Throat
A perpetually sore throat even when you don’t have a cold or sinus infection could be a sign that something more is going on. Oral cancer often presents itself as either an open sore or a lump, which could also leave you with the feeling that something sticks in your throat. Tell your dentist if you notice either these symptoms.
4. Difficulty Chewing or Swallowing
Some people who have oral cancer first notice the disease thanks to an unusual difficulty in chewing or swallowing. Though oral cancer is typically does not have association with a large amount of pain, lesions or lumps that are an indication of cancer may make chewing or swallowing more painful. This is especially true for patients who wear dentures, as an inflammation of the jaw or gums due to oral cancer can make dentures significantly less comfortable to wear.
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms and think you may be in the early stages of oral cancer, our team at Dental Specialty Associates can help. Give us a call at 602-795-5995 to schedule an appointment.