Don't ignore early warning signs, when in doubt, get it checked out!
Most of my friends, colleagues and patients know that I am passionate about prevention. My family, my friends and my patients have all been touched by oral cancer. Oral cancer is no fun. As a dental professional I am trained to evaluate the health of the oral tissues. If you have even the slightest concern, you should come in and have me evaluate it.
The death rate for oral cancer is higher than cervical cancer. Most of these cases are found on the tongue or floor of the mouth. Lips, cheeks, gums and palate(roof of the mouth) can also be affected. Early detection is crucial. Most oral cancers can be removed surgically when they are detected early. The earlier a cancer is detected and treated the greater the survival rate.
Who is at risk?
Historically tobacco users were at the top of the list for developing oral cancers. Today excessive use of alcohol, exposure to the sun and individuals with the human papilloma virus are at increased risk.
Are there warning signs?
Oral cancer is typically painless in its early stage. It can be a discolored patch in the mouth. Thickened tissues or lumps in or around the mouth. White patches where folks keep their smokeless tobacco are usually pre-cancerous and can become oral cancers with repeated exposure. As a malignancy progresses some of these lesions or lumps may become painful. Persistent hoarseness or difficulty swallowing can also be associated with a cancerous lesion.
What is involved in a cancer screening?
At Dr. H. Charles Jelineks Fairfax dental office we include an evaluation of the soft tissue at every dental cleaning appointment. This screening, is performed at every preventative visit and is crucial in evaluating the tissues. If you feel something looks or feels differently be sure to mention it to Dr. Jelinek or the dental hygienist.
Screening exams are not designed to diagnose cancer. They are designed to screen out the healthy tissues so that more advanced testing and diagnostics can be performed on those who need it most.
A suspicious area will be biopsied, a small sample of tissue will be sent for microscopic examination. The results of this test will determine if additional treatment is necessary.
Can oral cancer be prevented?
No one knows for sure what causes a cancer to start. However, reducing or eliminating risk factors is a good way to reduce the risk of developing a cancerous lesion.
- Reduce or eliminate all forms of tobacco use.
- If you drink alcohol to excess, consider giving it up.
- If you are not a carrier of HPV – get vaccinated.
- If you notice any changes inside your mouth – report it to your dental professional promptly.
Oral Cancer can affect anyone. It is not a famous cancer, It doesn’t have any profile organizations or fancy fundraisers. While we all know about the pink ribbons, hardly anyone knows that the red and white ribbon is the symbol for oral cancer. Yet it has been diagnosed in many famous people. Guess what all of these celebrities have in common?
- Diane Von Furstenberg
- Eddie Van Halen
- Jack Klugman
- Brett Butler
- Aaron Spelling
- Rod Stewart
- George Harrison
- Grover Cleveland
- Babe Ruth
- Lana Turner
- Peter Tork
They are a just of few of the famous folks who have been diagnosed with oral cancer.
I know I have done my job because there is at least one human being walking around our community right now, because I bugged, begged, pleaded and finally succeeded in getting this person to have a biopsy. Today they are alive and well, because their dentist (me) didn’t let a little white spot get ignored.
Please be sure to get regular dental examinations and oral cancer testing! Call us today for a complimentary exam (703) 560-8700.