What Is Oral Cancer?

Is Oral Cancer Preventable? Learn How to Identify the Signs Today

There are many different types of cancer, while non are fully preventable, there are steps you can take that will help to even the playing field against oral cancer. Oral cancer can be completely treatable, but the success of the treatment highly depends on an early diagnosis.

Your dentist is your best resource for learning more about the signs of oral cancer and what to look out for. During regular dental checkups the dental professional will do a visual exam of your mouth and make note of anything that is suspicious.

What is Oral Cancer?

Cancer is a disease that can affect any area of the body including the mouth. Normal cells will divide and replace old and worn out cells. When cancer is present, the normal life cycle of the cell is disrupted.  Cancer is the uncontrolled division of cells. These wayward cells invade the surrounding tissue and prevent normal cellular processes. Cancers can group together to form masses and tumors.

Oral cancer often starts as a small mouth sore and is left undiagnosed as cancer. The cancer then can spread to other areas of the body and become a terminal illness. Oral cancer kills an average of 9,750 patients each year, not because it is not a treatable cancer, but because it is often discovered too late to treat.

The key to successfully treating Oral cancers is early detection. The sooner the cancer is diagnosed the better the odds are of survival for the patient.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

The Different Types of Oral Cancer

There are primarily five types of oral cancers including:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma- this is the most common oral cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 90% of oral cancers. The throat and mouth are rife with these types of cells.
  • Verrucous carcinoma-This is a slow growing cancer that accounts for about 5% of oral cancers.
  • Minor salivary gland carcinomas- This cancer can be several different cancers that have developed in the (minor) salivary glands.
  • Lymphoma -This is cancer that develops in the lymph nodes at the base of the tongue.
  • Benign oral tumors – In some cases tumors that seem to be cancerous are not. The only way to know if the tumor is benign for sure is to have it removed and tested.

Oral cancer is part of head and neck cancers. Oral cancers can affect the lips, the interior of the cheeks, the tongue, gums and teeth. Lip cancer is prevalent among men while other oral cancers equally afflict both men and women.

Recognizing the early signs of mouth cancer can be the best way to improve your chances of recovery from cancer.

The Signs of Oral Cancer

The first way to combat oral cancers is to ensure that you are seeing your dentist regularly. They are the experts that can easily identify when something is wrong in your mouth. If you smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco you are at a much higher risk of oral cancer. People over the age of 40 are also in a higher risk category. If you are in either of these two groups you want to report any lumps, sores of lesions in your mouth or on your lips to your dentist immediately.

If you have painful or suspicious growths in your mouth, it could be cancer, and you should have it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

My teeth were making me look really old. So, I decided that if I could get them fixed up, maybe it would help. And it did, a lot! I’m much more comfortable giving a big grin… It was painless, it was easy and it was so worth anything to go through this. I love my teeth!.

– Cindy

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Oral cancer symptoms can vary depending on where the cancer is located in your mouth and at what stage the cancer is at. Symptoms can include tenderness in the mouth or anywhere in the face. Bleeding from the mouth that is unexplained, for example, your gums are bleeding and you have not been diagnosed with gum disease.

Patches of pink, white or red in the mouth on the tongue or lips can be the early signs of oral cancer. Difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing can be early symptoms of oral cancer. Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue can be a symptom of cancer of the mouth.

If you have had a dramatic loss of weight. Ear pain can also be a symptom of oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Treatment

The Treatment Process

If you have noticed any of the signs or symptoms of cancer, the first step is to arrange for an oral screening with the dentist. The screening process will include testing for cancer. If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, there are treatments available. Your dentist will refer you to an oncologist (cancer specialist).

Like most cancers, the oral cancer will surgically be removed. After the surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy will be recommended.

To Answer the Question

Is oral cancer preventable? The answer is yes and no. There is some evidence that there is a connection between genetics and the onset of cancer. However, even if your immediate family members have had oral cancer, it does not mean that you will too.

 There are steps that you can take to reduce the chances of oral cancer. You can see your dentist regularly for regular screenings to address anything that is suspicious.

If you smoke, dip or vape, stopping now can reduce your chances of ever developing oral cancer. A healthy diet and good oral health care may also help to reduce the odds of cancer. A healthy diet and good oral hygiene will certainly improve your treatment success if you are diagnosed with cancer.

If You Are Concerned

At Friendly Family Dentistry we specialize in oral cancer screenings. If you think you may have oral cancer, we can help. Call for an appointment today.


Posted in