What Do You Know About Oral Cancer?

Did you know that over 50,000 new cases of oral cancer were diagnosed last year in the United States? Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women.

Oral Cancer ScreeningWhat Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer develops on the tongue, on the gums, under or at the base of the tongue, and on the back of the throat at the back.

  • More than 90 percent of oral cancers occur in areas exposed to tobacco.
  • Oral cancers are among the four most commonly occurring cancers in men and women in the United States.
  • Oral cancer is one of the top 10 causes of death due to cancer worldwide.
  • Twice as many men are diagnosed with oral cancer.
  • Every hour someone dies from oral cancer. If it is detected and treated early, survival rates increase.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

  • Tobacco use of any kind puts you at risk of developing oral cancers. Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk. Using both tobacco and alcohol increases the risk even further.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause serious health problems, including cancer. HPV can infect the mouth and throat and cause cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils). This is called oropharyngeal cancer. HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States.
  • Risk increases with age. Oral cancers most often occur in people over the age of 40.
  • Cancer of the lip can be caused by sun exposure.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see a dentist or a doctor.

  • Mouth pain
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue.
  • Any sore that does not heal within 2 weeks
  • Tooth pain
  • Discoloration of the soft tissues of the mouth
  • Discomfort with eating or drinking
  • Any abnormality that bleeds easily
  • Numbness in your tongue or mouth
  • A lump on the tongue
  • A lump felt on the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

Because oral cancer can spread quickly, early detection is important. An oral cancer examination can detect early signs of cancer. The exam is painless and takes only a few minutes. Many dentists will perform the test during your regular dental check-up.

During the exam, your dentist or dental hygienist will check your face, neck, lips, and entire mouth for possible signs of cancer.

Oral Cancer Treatment

As with most cancers, treatment involves a surgeon, oncologist, dentist, and restorative specialist. In the early stages, a surgeon can remove the tumor and any cancerous lymph nodes. Depending on your stage or severity, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be used to kill cancer cells. Nutrition is also an important piece of treatment by choosing foods that will be gentle on the mouth and throat.

Oral Cancer Screening

An oral cancer exam allows your dentist to look for any signs of actual oral cancer. Typically, he or she will look for symptoms on the roof and floor of your mouth, at the base of your tongue and its underside, along the insides of your lips and cheeks as well as around your jaw and neck. If any areas of concern or signs of oral cancer are found, you will be referred to a dental surgeon who can diagnose your symptoms more completely.

Screening for changes in the mouth, tongue, gums, and throat is essential to diagnose problems early. Additionally, knowing your family history may help you detect the disease at an earlier stage.

Downers Grove Dentist

If you are looking for a Downers Grove dentist for a check-up and oral cancer screening, contact Webster Dental at 630.663.0554. We are located at 1121 Warren Avenue, Suite 130, in Downers Grove, Illinois 60515. Our dental office is in the heart of downtown Downers Grove, close to the METRA train, restaurants, boutiques, and the Tivoli Theatre. And we are just minutes away from Interstates 88, 355, 55, 290, and 294.


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