It includes cancers that affect the tongue, lips, floor of the mouth, hard palate and cheeks.
Here are 7 early signs of the disease that you should not ignore if you want to successfully treat Oral Cancer:
- Swellings or Lumps - One of the initial signs of developing mouth cancer are the noticeable swellings, lumps or rough spots in your mouth, neck or jaw that remain present even after three weeks.
- Ulcers/Red/ White Patches - Ulcers, or red or white patches, having a velvety texture are also among the first signs that appear. If the spots do not heal in 3 weeks, it is highly probable that oral cancer is starting to develop.
- Trouble Chewing/ Swallowing - People who suffer from the initial stages of oral cancer often experience trouble in chewing and swallowing, jaw or tongue movement and speaking. It is important to take prompt action and get these problems checked by a doctor.
- Soreness in Mouth/ Neck/ Face - Sores in the mouth, neck, and face that bleed persistently and do not heal within two weeks, need examining as they are also symptoms of oral cancer.
- Incessant Bleeding - Another sign of oral cancer is constant bleeding in your mouth which does not have any known causes.
- Loss of Sensation - Loss of feeling or pain in areas like your mouth, neck, face and ear are other indicators that oral cancer could be developing.
- A chronic Sore Throat - Oral cancer patients also experience persistent sore throats in the early stages. A lump in your throat can also accompany a sore throat. Once this symptom shows up, it is best to get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
Other Signs & Symptoms
What Does the Early Stage of Oral Cancer Look Like?
Most of the times, mouth cancer doesn't exhibit symptoms in the early stage. A few common indications of oral cancer include the development of mouth sores/lesions that don't cure even after being on medications. The thickening of the skin, lining the oral cavity occurs with lump formations and red and/or white patches are viewed in several areas of the mouth.
What Does Cancer Look Like in Your Throat?
The answer actually depends on what portion of the throat contains the cancerous cells. In other words, the position of the tumor and the stage of its growth, are key to representing the appearance of throat cancer. For example, if you have a larynx cancer, red patches may be seen along with an irregular surface. Sores of lesions and piled up cells may also be visible.
It is crucial to note that you might get a blistered and swollen lump in an advanced staged throat cancer. It may at times feel like a concentrated growth of cells. Sometimes, the tumor may appear to be round and suspended over the lining of the throat.
How Do You Know if You Have Oral Cancer?
White lesions (or leukoplakia) and red lesions (or erythroplakia) are the two types of mouth lesions that could be a harbinger of cancer. If these lesions don't resolve on their own within 2 weeks, they should be reexamined and sent for biopsy to get a conclusive diagnosis.
Other potential signs indicating oral cancer that you may report to your doctor include:
- Lump or node in the soft oral tissues
- Tenderness or a feeling that something getting choked in the throat
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- Trouble with jaw or tongue movement
- Pain in the Ear
- Hoarseness in the voice
- Numbness of the tongue or other portions of the mouth
- Swelling of the jaw
- Poorly fitting or uncomfortable dentures
A thorough medical examination and tests, as required, should be carried out to get a precise diagnosis in case these problems last for more than 2 weeks. If it's not possible to get the definite diagnosis, the case should be referred to the appropriate specialist.
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Can Oral Cancer Kill You?
Also referred to as a silent killer, oral cancer is mostly painless at the onset. But as soon as an annoyingly painful area is noticeable, it turns into an important concern. Early detection and self-awareness is key to saving lives.
According to some estimate 4 out of 5 people diagnosed with an early-stage mouth, cancer will survive for at least five years preceding their diagnosis. On the contrary, the prospect of survival is much bleak, if mouth cancer is detected at a later stage when it has already spread from the mouth into adjacent tissue. In such cases, merely 1 in 5 people will survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
What are the First Signs of Mouth Cancer?
The initial signs of mouth cancer include:
- Red or white patches in the oral tissues
- Non-healing and easily prone to bleeding mouth sores or ulcers
- Inexplicable swelling in the neck region, throat or mouth lining
- Trouble or discomfort swallowing and chewing
- Painful and sore teeth or gums
- Misfitting dentures or partial dentures
- Visible alteration in mouth tissue
- Uncomfortable sensations (pain, soreness, numbness)
A Warnings Checklist to Minimize Your Oral Cancer Risk
Mouth cancers are among the most avoidable types of cancers. The foremost step you can take towards oral cancer prevention is to stop smoking and chewing tobacco products if you currently do.
You can also decrease your risk by:
- Limiting your sun exposure and wearing lip balm with SPF
- Consuming a balanced diet including fruits and vegetables, and avoiding spicy food
- Limiting your alcohol consumption or taking in moderation
- Removing and cleaning your dentures daily at night
- Practicing sound oral health habits
- Scheduling regular visits to your dentist
While it’s impossible to prevent oral cancer, diligently indulging in these steps can help minimize your chances of diagnosis. Regular visits to your dentists will go a long way to ensure any indications of oral cancer are detected as early as possible.
The Best Oral Cancer Treatments
Location and stages of oral cancer, along with the patient's general health and individual preferences are important factors for determining the most suitable cancer treatment options. A combination of treatments in some instances may be necessary. Here are some of the standard options for oral cancer treatment:
Removing the tumor through surgery involves extracting the cancerous growth and a portion of healthy tissue around it. A tiny tumor will necessitate minor surgery, while surgery for larger tumors may involve strategic removal of some amount of the tongue or the jawbone.
Oral cancers are particularly responsive to radiation therapy, which involves the application of high-energy X-ray beams or radiation particles to destroy the DNA within the tumor cells, ruining their chances of reproduction. A course usually lasts for 1-8 days.
Chemotherapy procedures involve the use of powerful medications that destroy the DNA of the cancer cells, weakening their ability to reproduce.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted drug therapy makes use of drugs which are referred to as monoclonal antibodies to modify features of cancer cells that support their growth. Targeted drugs may be useful in combination with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Is Mouth Cancer Treatable?
Often the instances of oral cancer are curable. Several oral cancer cases have been cured with surgery. There are many different types of surgery being used. If an important surgery is performed, the surgeon may also reconstruct parts of the oral cavity to retain your mouth's appearance and function. Radiation therapy is also applied to treat and cure oral cancer, sometimes in combination with surgery. Chemotherapy may be considered before or after surgery or used separately when the cancer is detected at a later stage. Powerful chemotherapy can check further spread of cancer.
Timely detection and treatment of an early stage mouth cancer can have a good probability of a cure. Chances of a cure are diminished if the cancer has spread.
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