Stop Oral Cancer
Whether in our own bodies or in someone we love, cancer has affected nearly all of us. Whether personally or a friend or family member, it is a cruel disease. When you go to the dentist, did you know that we’re looking for more than just your adherence to a good flossing regime? On top of traditional dental issues, Dr. Ku is also screening you for oral cancer.
Oral cancer includes all cancers in the mouth and at the back of the throat, and account for nearly 3% of all cancer diagnoses each year. Knowing what to look out for and catching it early are crucial to help better your chances of beating it. If you have any concerns or are exhibiting symptoms, please call your general practitioner or Dr. Ku today.
Men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with oral cancer. And most diagnoses occur in those over 40 years old. While cancer can affect anyone at any time, there are certain lifestyle choices that lead to a higher incidence rate. For example, tobacco users of any kind are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. In combination with alcohol, the prevalence rate increases exponentially. Individuals exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically HPV type 16, also have a higher chance or being diagnosed with oral cancer. And finally, excessive sun exposure can cause cancer of the lips, which is another form of oral cancer.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The signs of oral cancer can imitate those of a variety of different illnesses, which is how it’s often ignored or confused for other things. From a sore throat to an ear infection, oral cancer can feel like other ailments you’ve experienced a thousand times before. Due to this, some people delay in seeking treatment since they think it will get better on its own. In other cases, the signs can be seen but have no physical pain or discomfort accompanying them. Most commonly, the cancer causes sores or thick patches in our mouth, lips or throat that are red and white in color. Patients don’t know what to think.
Since catching oral cancer can be difficult, it’s important that you visit your dentist regularly so that an oral cancer screening can occur. These screening are quick and painless—so much so that patients didn’t even realize it’s part of their standard check-up. And ultimately, a visit to the dentist could save your life.
If cancer is suspected, your dentist will refer you to doctors who specialize in the treatment of oral cancer. This includes ENTs, head and neck surgeons and oncologists. When oral cancer is caught early, radiation or chemotherapy in combination with surgery is the most common treatment plan. If the cancer is detected later, radiation in combination with chemotherapy is commonly prescribed. Like many other types of cancers, the treatment is dependent on your overall health and the progression of the disease.
Throughout the course of treatment, it’s important your cancer team stay in contact with your dentist. Treatments can cause lateral damage to the teeth, so continuing your bi-annual visits is extremely important.
Oral cancer left unchecked can quickly spread. If diagnosed in late stages, the disease can be life-threatening. Oral cancer that is found late has normally metastasized, which means cancerous cells have entered into other regions of the body. One in four individuals who suffer from oral cancer will die due to delayed diagnosis and treatment.
These alarming statistics should encourage you to make an appointment with Dr. Ku today for your regular check-up and oral cancer screening.
Also published on Medium.