When it comes to oral cancer, every second counts. Early detection often results from regular check-ups, and nearly 90% of early-stage oral cancers can be cured. In fact, we use the ViziliteTM system to find oral cancers quickly and effectively, even in its earliest stages. Survival rates for early detection are quite high, but oral cancer still poses a serious risk to your health and quality of life.
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in your mouth, including the lips, tongue, palate, inner cheeks, gums, throat, larynx, and sinuses. Whether you’re at particular risk or not, knowing these 6 oral cancer symptoms is one your best tools for catching this disease. Considering seeing a doctor if any of the following symptoms last for more than two weeks.
1. Lumps, sores, or thick patches
The most obvious symptom of oral cancer are the tumors themselves, which can appear anywhere in the mouth. These lumps, sores, or patches will typically appear discolored, either paler or darker than the healthy tissue surrounding them.
Of course, many people experience sores in their mouth for one reason or another, and a simple sore does not always indicate oral cancer. However, if the sore persists for more than two weeks with no signs of healing, you should see your doctor right away.
2. Red and/or white lesions
When oral cancer does not form lumps or sores, it might take the form of a painful lesion anywhere in the oral cavity. These lesions can appear white, red, or a combination of both, and should be taken seriously when they don’t show signs of healing.
3. Feeling of a lump in the throat
People might find throat cancers more difficult to detect, for obvious reasons, yet a persistent feeling of a lump in your throat can give away a possible growth. Swallowing will likely make this feeling more pronounced as well.
4. Sore throat
While this is another symptom common to many other medical issues, like colds and flus, don’t discount it. A sore throat might indicate oral cancer when it lingers, with no sign of improvement, for two weeks or more.
5. Pain/difficulty with chewing, swallowing, or speaking
Cancer in the larynx can prove even harder to detect, yet any pain or difficulty while swallowing or speaking might be a sign of growths in the area of your vocal cords. This might also produce hoarseness or even a change in your voice.
Likewise, pain or difficulty chewing or moving the mouth or tongue can indicate growths elsewhere in the mouth.
6. Pain in one or both ears
For oral cancer in the sinuses, a common indicator might be a persistent pain in the ears. Of course, this can also be a symptom of a simple sinus infection, but some temporary loss of hearing would usually accompany the congestion of a sinus infection. With oral cancer, pain would likely be the only symptom in the ears themselves.
If you experience any of these symptoms, keep a close watch on them for the next two weeks. If they persist, worsen, or show no signs of healing, talk to a doctor right away. In the meantime, avoid the common risk factors for oral cancer, such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption, and make sure to maintain your regular visits to the dentist.
At My Family Dentistry, we provide an oral cancer screening for each patient during their exams, because we know that early detection is key in effective treatment and keeping our patients healthy. Contact us today if you have any questions about the common symptoms and risk factors, or to set up an appointment.