Symptoms of Oral Cancer

These days, more and more individuals are using the Internet as a means of diagnosing their own medical conditions. From symptom checklists to interactive forums, the web is full of information – or in some cases, misinformation – with respect to personal health.

While self-diagnosis is rarely wise (after all, doctors and dentists go through all that schooling for good reason), it never hurts to be aware of the warning signs of the various ailments out there – especially those that, if left untreated, can end up being fatal. One such disease is none other than oral cancer, a condition that has unfortunately become far more prevalent over the past number of years. Although oral cancer is still considered to be a rare form of cancer on a whole, incidents of the disease have been springing up all over the country more so lately than ever before.

The scary thing about oral cancer is that like certain other types of cancer, it can be aggressive. Regrettably, many people – especially those who do not visit their dentists often – don’t learn of the disease until it is too late. Since early detection of oral cancer is the true key to survival, it’s important that anyone at risk for the disease make a point to see his dentist twice a year (or as recommended) and be aware of the telltale signs that a problem might be present.

Who’s at risk for oral cancer? Technically, everybody, though certain behaviors can increase one’s likelihood of getting the disease. Smokers, heavy drinkers, and those who use chewing tobacco ought to be extra vigilant in keeping an eye out for oral cancer. In addition, anyone who’s ever been diagnosed with cancer of the head or neck before has a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Furthermore, studies have shown that there seems to be a high correlation between certain versions of the human papilloma virus (HPV) and oral cancer; therefore, anyone with HPV should be extra cautious and inform his dentist of his condition accordingly.

What should a person look out for in terms of oral cancer symptoms? Dr. Joseph Pizzarello of Pizzarello and Silvestro Family Dentistry, a Stoneham, Massachusetts practice, suggests taking note of the following:

Unusual lumps or bumps
Anyone who comes to notice a new lump or bump inside the mouth should make an appointment with his dentist to have it evaluated. When checking for bumps on their own, individuals should pay attention to the floor of the mouth, the sides and bottom of the tongue, and the inside of the cheeks.

Distinct color changes inside the mouth

The inside of a person’s mouth is rarely going to sport a rainbow of colors, but any hues that seem unusual should be reported to a dentist at once. Of course, it’s best to evaluate the mouth at a time in which recent food consumption won’t come into play.

New patches

When self-screening for oral cancer, people should take note of visible patches on the inside of the mouth that are white, red, or a combination of both. These patches might appear on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth.

It’s not a bad idea to be suspicious of bumps in the mouth that appear on one side but not the other. Anyone who discovers something along these lines should see a dentist at once.

Pain when swallowing
It’s common for many cold and flu-like ailments to produce painful swallowing as a disruptive side effect. However, sudden pain while swallowing in the absence of cold symptoms could be a sign of oral cancer, in which case a dental professional should be consulted immediately.

Stubborn sores
Mouth sores are fairly common among dental patients of all ages. After all, it’s easy enough to bite down on one’s cheek and have a lesion pop up as a result. On the other hand, most mouth sores do tend to heal within a fairly reasonable period of time. Therefore, a mouth sore that doesn’t seem to be healing on its own is something that a dentist will need to examine – even if the sore in question is not causing the affected individual any pain.

Oral cancer is a serious disease, so it’s a good idea to be vigilant when it comes to recognizing the signs. However, it’s also important to avoid working oneself up over an oral condition until a dentist is given the chance to make a diagnosis. Along these lines, one should never attempt to use his knowledge about oral cancer symptoms as an excuse to self-diagnose in favor of going to the dentist. After all, dentists go through all of their special training for a reason, and when it comes to oral cancer screening, it’s important to ultimately turn to an expert.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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