Every year, more than 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and almost 10,000 people will die from the disease. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, the relatively high mortality rates of oral cancer aren’t due to the condition being hard to diagnose, but because it’s often diagnosed in its advanced stages.
Oral cancer, like many other types of cancer, may not cause painful or noticeable symptoms in its early stages. While your dentist looks for signs of oral cancer during your routine exams, you can also keep an eye on the soft pink tissue in your mouth when your brush and floss your teeth. Make sure to schedule an additional appointment if you notice a change.
What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
Some of the early warning signs of oral cancer include:
- Sores or lumps anywhere in your mouth or throat
- Swelling or patches of thick tissue
- Red or white lesions
- Pain, numbness, or tenderness anywhere in your mouth
- Pain in one of your ears without hearing loss
- Problems with moving your jaw, chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Loose teeth with no dental cause
- Linger sore throat or hoarse voice
If you have any of these symptoms, make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist.
How is oral cancer diagnosed?
If your dentist also finds the abnormal tissue in your mouth suspicious, they provide a referral for a biopsy. This is where the expert oral surgeons at Rotary Way Oral Surgery take over.
The oral surgeons offer a variety of biopsy services. Biopsies are minor, outpatient procedures in which your oral surgeon takes a small sample of cells from the abnormal patch of tissue in your mouth. Your surgeon may be able to take the biopsy with only a local anesthetic.
They may be able to take a swab or surface scrape of cells. However, in most cases, they will make a small incision in your mouth or use a puncture tool to take a sample. Your oral surgeon then sends the sample to a lab where it’s tested and analyzed to diagnose the underlying condition.
Frequently, biopsies reveal benign (noncancerous) conditions such as herpes, fungal infections, and salivary problems. However, if your biopsy confirms that you have oral cancer, your surgeon can work with you, your dentist, and oncologist to remove the tumor and make sure all of the abnormal cells are destroyed.
How is oral cancer treated?
In many cases, your oral surgeon can perform an excision to remove the tumor or abnormal cells in your mouth. Excision surgery is also an outpatient procedure. Depending on the size and stage of your cancer, you may need sedation as well as a local anesthetic. Your surgeon discusses your anesthesia options during your pre-operative consultation.
Early diagnosis is critical to removing and treating oral cancer before it spread and has a more significant impact on your health and quality of life. If you’ve noticed abnormal tissue in your mouth, make an appointment with your dentist right away and get a referral to meet with the expert oral surgeons at Rotary Way Oral Surgery in Vallejo, California. The practice welcomes new patients and accepts most insurance plans.