It's a sad fact that every year approximately 34,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer. It's even sadder that oral cancer results in approximately 8,000 deaths annually, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. A particularly dangerous disease, oral cancer has about a 50 percent five-year survival rate.
The death rate is significantly high because this type of cancer is often discovered so late in its growth. The reason for this is that early signs of oral cancer may not always be noticeable or cause considerable pain, and many patients do not know what mouth cancer symptoms to look for.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
Through education and attention to detail, Americans may be able to change mouth cancer statistics. Being aware of the symptoms of oral cancer can lead to an earlier diagnosis and possibly increase your chance for survival.
Oral cancer symptoms can include:
There are several other factors that can weigh into the development of mouth cancer symptoms. Tobacco users and heavy drinkers are at higher risk for developing symptoms of mouth cancer. Age and sex may also determine your risk for oral cancer. Older people are at higher risk and men have twice the risk than women of developing oral cancer symptoms. Overall, men over 50 have the greatest risk of getting oral cancer. While oral cancer can affect anyone at any time, it's even more important to be aware of the signs of oral cancer if you fall into any of the above categories.
Of course, experiencing any symptoms of oral cancer does not automatically mean you have it. Only a medical professional can determine whether mouth cancer symptoms are a result of the disease. Many early signs of oral cancer are also symptoms of other mouth conditions, which should also only be diagnosed by a dentist.
Detecting Early Mouth Cancer Symptoms
Millions of people experience early symptoms of oral cancer and don't even know it. Don't ignore the warning signs -- take the time check for signs of oral cancer on your own. For starters, you should give yourself a self-exam at least once a month. Use a flashlight and mirror to check out the inside of your mouth and look for any changes to the tissue on your gums, cheek, tongue or lips. Be aware of any of the other warning signs listed above and make note of them. If you notice something that resembles mouth cancer symptoms, don't panic -- make an appointment to see your dentist for an oral cancer screening right away.
The best way to detect oral cancer is to visit the dentist. Many dentists perform an oral cancer screening as part of a dental exam, so make regular dental visits part of your overall preventive health care regimen. If your dentist notices any symptoms of mouth cancer, he or she will perform a biopsy of the area. Most oral biopsies are now performed using a small brush, but the procedure may be done with a scalpel if more tissue is needed. If it is determined that your oral cancer symptoms are a result of the disease, your dentist will refer you back to your medical practitioner for oral cancer treatment.
One More Thing about Mouth Cancer Symptoms …
Even if you perform ongoing self-exams, some early warning signs of oral cancer could be so minimal that you may not notice them. It's important to stay on top of your dental health with regular dental visits. With their professional training, dentists may be able to detect oral cancer symptoms that you might have missed. Once you're there, be honest with your dentist about tobacco and alcohol use as well as your medical history. Your awareness of the symptoms of oral cancer combined with the right preventive care could keep you from becoming a statistic.
Take care of yourself -- schedule your oral cancer screening today.
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