To protect yourself and your family, it’s important to know the symptoms of oral cancer so you can start treatment as soon as possible. We asked Centennial Colorado dentist, Dr. Daniel Butterman to outline possible signs we should be aware of.
Here’s what to look for along with ways your dentist may help.
- Know where to look. Oral cancer can develop on the lips, cheeks, tongue, floor of the mouth, sinuses, throat and the hard and soft palate.
- Patches in your mouth. If you develop velvety white, red or speckled patches in your mouth, it may be a sign something is wrong.
- Swelling/thickenings in the mouth. Many oral cancer patients experience lumps or bumps or eroded areas on the gums, lips or other parts of their mouth.
- Bleeding. If your mouth is bleeding and you have no idea why, it could be a sign of oral cancer.
- Numbness. When people develop oral cancer, it’s not uncommon for them to deal with unexplained numbness in their face, mouth or neck. It’s also possible to have a complete loss of feeling or pain in these areas.
- Sores. Mouth sores are fairly common and usually aren’t cause for concern, but they could indicated something is wrong if they don’t go away after two weeks. These sores tend to bleed easily and can show up in your mouth, on your face or on your neck.
- An odd feeling in the back of your throat. If your throat is sore or you feel like something is caught there, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Hoarseness, living with a sore throat that just won’t go away and a change in your voice are also common oral cancer symptoms.
- Difficulty completing normal functions. People with oral cancer often have difficulty doing tasks they didn’t have to think twice about before, such as speaking, chewing, swallowing or moving their jaw or tongue.
- Changes in your mouth. If you’ve noticed a change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together, it might be because something is wrong.
- Changes in other areas of your body. While most of the signs to look for happen in or near your mouth, there are other areas that might be affected. Ear pain and sudden, significant weight loss are also oral cancer symptoms.
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your dentist right away. He’ll conduct an oral cancer screening and will look for any tissue changes or lumps in your head, face, neck and oral cavity. He’ll also look for sores or discolored tissue in your mouth. If something looks off, your dentist will likely perform an oral brush biopsy, or recommend a scalpel biopsy.
The earlier you’re diagnosed with oral cancer, the better your prognosis will be. Visit your dentist regularly for routine screenings, and if you notice anything suspicious in between visits, call your dentist for an appointment right away.
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