Protect Yourself with Oral Cancer Exams
Dentists and hygienists help detect this often fatal illness while it is treatable.
When your oral hygienist and dentist perform routine checkups, among the things they’re looking for are possible signs of oral cancer.1
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 35,310 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2008 and that 7,590 will die of it.1 Oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer (which involves the throat just behind the mouth)1,2 are twice as common in men as in women1,2 and slightly more common in African-Americans than in whites.2 Common symptoms include:
White or red patches in your mouth1,2
A sore in your mouth that will not heal2,3
Difficulty or pain when swallowing1,2,3
Difficulty wearing dentures2
A lump in your neck or cheek2
Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away2,3
Tell your dentist if you notice any of these signs. Your dentist should routinely look for such changes in your mouth and tongue—one more reason that regular checkups are so valuable. If your dentist finds a sore that does not have a clear cause, he or she may perform a brush test. This test collects cells, which are sent to a lab for analysis.3
The ACS recommends that you use a mirror once a month to check yourself for signs and symptoms of cancer in your mouth and throat. This is particularly useful if you are at high risk.1 If your dentist finds possible signs of oral cancer, a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. Surgery and radiation are the main treatments.1,2
1 “Oral Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 2007. www.cancer.org/downloads/pro/oralcancer.pdf Accessed 2010.
2 “Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” American Cancer Society, August 17, 2010. documents.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003128-pdf.pdf Accessed 2010.
3 “Oral Cancer.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2607.aspx Accessed 2010.