Did you know that a quick examination with your oral surgeon or general dentist could save your life? Each year, over 8,000 people in the United States die from oral cancer. Statistics show that about 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancers of the mouth annually. Oral cancers can form anywhere in the oral cavity—especially along the lining of the lips and mouth.
Risk Factors for Developing Oral Cancer
In the past, research demonstrated that middle-aged men possessed the highest risk for oral cancer, especially men who smoked and drank alcohol frequently. Excessive exposure to artificial and natural UV rays also contributes to cancers that form on the lips because this area of the body does not produce melanin—the body’s natural defense against damaging UV rays. While alcohol and tobacco use along with UV exposure definitely heighten the risk for developing this condition, studies have shown that patients who have contracted HPV (human papillomavirus) hold a higher risk for developing cancers of the mouth, too. Because HPV causes this form of cancer, dental professionals may test for oral HPV to determine a patient’s risk level.
Screening and Treating Oral Cancers
An oral cancer screening is a quick evaluation of the soft tissues in the mouth. Your dentist or oral surgeon will look for suspicious lesions and tissues throughout the oral cavity that may appear as lumps, patchy colored areas, and sores. In some cases, special lights that illuminate abnormal cells may be used to examine certain areas in more detail.
If a suspicious tissue or lesion is found, a biopsy of the area will be taken. Medical professionals will then closely evaluate the biopsy to determine if the suspicious area is benign or malignant. Diagnosis and treatment will vary based on the patient’s biopsy results. Like other medical conditions, the earlier the detection, the better the prognosis.
Contact Central Oklahoma Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates to schedule an oral cancer screening with our skilled and compassionate oral surgeons.