Oral Cancer Screening

What is oral cancer?

Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore that does not go away. Oral cancer which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat) can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.

What are the common signs/symptoms of oral cancer?

  • Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
  • The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks
  • A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or changes in the voice
  • Ear pain
  • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together a change in your “bite”
  • Dramatic weight loss

Is the white patch in my mouth cancer?

This whitish patch could be leukoplakia. Leukoplakia, a condition caused by excess cell growth, can form on the cheeks, gums, or tongue. Leukoplakia is commonly seen in tobacco users, in people with ill-fitting dentures, and in those who have a habit of chewing on their cheek. This condition can progress to cancer. Red patches in the mouth (called erythroplakia) are less common than leukoplakia but have an even greater potential for being cancerous. Any white or red lesion in your mouth should be evaluated by your dentist.

Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of any dental exam and it is important to have them done regularly.

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