What Do You Know About Oral Cancer?

Posted by DrKelly | Filed under ,

          Oral cancer death rate is higher than that of cancers that everyone hears about on a daily basis like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer of the testes, cancer in the endocrine system, cervical cancer, or laryngeal cancer. Close to 45,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year alone. Causing 8,650 deaths, that’s roughly one person every hour, 24 hours a day. Sadly of those 45,750 diagnosed with oral cancer only slightly more than half will be alive in five years, that’s about 57%.

         Where does cancer start? Cancer begins in cells, which are the building blocks that make up tissue, and tissues are what make up the organs of the body. When cells are healthy they grow and then divide to form new ones when the body needs them. When a healthy cells gets damaged or becomes old they die. After they die the body needs new cells to take their place. Sometimes this process doesn’t go as planned. If the body allows for new cells to form and they are not needed a growth or tumor is formed, making a mass of tissue.

          The mass of tissue (tumors) can form into two types, benign or malignant. Benign tumors can usually be removed easily, and majority of the time do not grow back and are rarely life threatening. They are usually contained to one area and do not affect any other tissues in the body. Malignant tumors however, can be life threatening, have a high possibility of growing back once removed, and will spread to other tissues throughout the body.

          Oral cancer cells begin to form in the flat cells of the mouth, tongue, and lips. It can spread by branching out from the base tumor and then enter into the lymph and or blood vessels, which lead straight to the other tissues of the body, causing damage to those tissues. Oral cancer is usually diagnosed into four stages. Stages one or two tend to be a smaller mass of tissue (smaller than a half dollar), with no cancer cells found in or around the lymph nodes or other tissues. Stages three or four tends to be a larger mass (more towards the size of a kiwi), these stages have already began to invade surrounding tissues, possibly spreading to other tissues in the body or lymph nodes.

          Most causes of oral cancer are from cigarettes, pipes, cigars or the use of chewing tobacco or snuff. Increased risks for oral cancer increase with the amount of tobacco used per day. People that also consume large amounts of alcohol or have prolonged exposure to the sun can develop oral cancer as well.

          There are signs or symptoms that can be looked for when examining for oral cancer, some symptoms may include:
• Noticing a lump or not in your neck
• A continuous earache
• Pain or hard time swallowing
• Loose teeth
• Sore on your lip that will not heal
• Numbness of your lower lip
• White, mixed red and white, or just red patches in your mouth
Early stages or oral cancer can usually be treated with surgery or radiation; advanced stages are usually treated with a variety of options. The recommended choice of treatment will depend on where the cancer is located, if it has affected other tissues, the overall health of the patient as well as the size of the tumor.

         Obviously, the best way to help prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco products and large, heavy amounts of alcohol. However, maintaining good oral health can help reduce the chances as well as help diagnose any changes that need to be addressed. Brushing daily, flossing and maintaining checkups with your family dentist are essential.

         If you are looking to establish a family dentist or have any questions or concerns that you would like to address concerning your oral health please visit our website at www.cleburnedentistry.com to schedule a visit or call our office at 817-641-2511 or if in the metro area 817-648-7770.

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