February is Cancer Prevention month, with February 4th being World Cancer day. One of the goals of this month is to reduce the impact of cancer through early detection. Catching any cancer before it has time to spread to distant sites dramatically improves survival rates. In the case of oral cancer, your dentist can have an important role in detecting malignant growths while they are still pre-symptomatic. During the cancer screening portion of your dental exam, Dr. Mondale will examine inside your mouth for visible abnormalities and feel around the face and neck for unusual growths. Some early signs/symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Sore, irritated and/or discolored tissue (especially mixed red and white sores)
- Hardening of normally soft tissue
- Prominent raised tissue growing outward from surface
- Difficulty swallowing
- Earache on one side
Any issue that has lasts more than 2-3 weeks should be addressed to determine a diagnosis. Of course like other cancer screening techniques this exam isn’t 100% effective, but it can be a life saving part of your dental visit!
Things we can all do to prevent oral cancer include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding all tobacco products and limiting alcohol consumption to recommended guidelines.
Currently, the fastest growing population of oral cancer patients is young non-smokers mainly due to Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. For more information on HPV click here. If you have concerns about HPV, please discuss them with your medical doctor or with Dr. Mondale.