With age comes great wisdom and experiences, not to mention a number of health risks. Although it’s true that some medical problems are more common among older men and women, this does not mean that someone can be excluded by virtue of age alone. Take gum disease and oral cancer, for example. Although these conditions are more prevalent in older adults, all age groups can be affected. For this reason, Dr. Todd Pizzi screens all patients for both diseases during their dental checkups in Shrewsbury, MA.
Symptoms That May Indicate Oral Cancer
Symptoms are subtle or non-existent in the earliest stages of oral cancer. Unfortunately, many patients do not confirm a diagnosis or seek treatment until the disease has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes or lungs. Between 20 and 30 percent of patients who have been diagnosed with oral cancer will also have developed cancer of the lymph nodes. The most commonly reported symptoms include:
- Patches of white, red, or darkened tissue in the mouth
- Lumps in your mouth, on your tongue, or on your neck
- Hoarseness or chronic sore throat
- Problems swallowing or chewing food
- Any unexplained changes in color or tissue
Above all, it’s important to understand that not all patients will experience all of these symptoms. Others notice them as they occur but write them off as symptoms of a more common, less innocuous condition. These two reasons alone justify the importance of regular oral cancer screening as part of a comprehensive dental exam. Between appointments, your dentist encourages you to perform self-exams every month. 15-40.org has an excellent step-by-step guide to performing self-exams.
Risk Factors Linked to Oral Cancer
No one is totally immune to oral cancer, but some groups face a much higher risk than others. The most obvious is smoking or chewing tobacco in all its forms. Frequent and significant alcohol consumption follows closely, with patients who use both tobacco and alcohol facing an even greater risk. Even tanning, which most people associate with skin cancer, can increase the likelihood of developing oral cancer. If your family history includes someone diagnosed with oral cancer or any other type of cancer, this suggests the need for even greater vigilance.
Have you been screened for oral cancer recently? To learn more about preventive measures, or to schedule an exam with one of our doctors, contact us at (508) 842-8838. We welcome patients living in Shrewsbury, Boylston, Millbury, Hopkinton, Worcester, and the surrounding areas.