Posts for tag: oral cancer
Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.
As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.
Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.
Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.
Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
The early signs of oral cancer are often easy to overlook. Unfortunately, if you don't receive prompt treatment for cancer, it may spread. Dentists Dr. Nicholas Papapetros, Dr. Jhon Giraldo, and Dr. Leo Kharin of Dentistry by Design in Andover, MA, share a few common early signs of oral cancer.
Slow healing sores
Does it seem as if you've had a canker sore or cut in your mouth forever? If you've had a sore for more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to pay a visit to our Andover office. Although slow healing can be a sign of cancer, your sores may also take longer to heal if you have diabetes or a condition or disease that affects your immune system.
Lumps and bumps
Lumps and bumps anywhere in your mouth, including your gums, tongue, throat, neck or the lining of your cheeks, are a cause for concern.
Red or white patches
Oral cancer may sometimes cause red or white patches to form in your mouth, throat or lips.
Pain can be a symptom of oral cancer even if you don't notice any visible signs in your mouth. Although pain doesn't always mean that you have cancer, it's an indication that something isn't quite right.
Depending on where the cancer is located, you may have trouble chewing if you have oral cancer. The cancer can make it hard to move your jaw or may cause numbness.
Trouble with your throat
Cancer may make swallowing difficult or might cause hoarseness. Some people who have oral cancer feel as if they have a sore throat that never goes away or a constant lump in the throat.
Loose teeth or dentures
Loose teeth are never normal in adults and should always be investigated. Both oral cancer and gum disease can cause loose teeth or dentures.
Regular dental visits help detect oral cancer
Oral cancer screenings are part of every dental checkup. If you see the dentist every six months, it's more likely that oral cancer will be caught in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Protect your health with regular dental visits. Call dentists Drs. Papapetros, Giraldo and Kharin of Dentistry by Design in Andover, MA, at (978) 475-5333 to schedule your appointment.
With college, a full-time job and an upcoming wedding to plan, Brooke Vitense had the hectic life of an average young woman in her twenties. But a chance discovery one morning would completely upend her normal life.
That morning Brook noticed white spots on the underside of her tongue while brushing her teeth. Not long after, she pointed out the spots to her dentist during her regular dental checkup. He recommended having the spots biopsied, just to be safe. She needed a wisdom tooth removed, so she scheduled the biopsy with her oral surgeon to coincide with the tooth extraction.
She soon forgot about the biopsy — until her dentist contacted her about the results. The lesions were pre-cancerous: he recommended she have them and a portion of her tongue removed surgically as soon as possible.
She underwent the procedure, but that wasn't the end of her ordeal. The follow-up pathology report indicated cancerous cells in the tissue excised during the procedure. To ensure elimination of any remaining cancerous cells they would need to remove more of her tongue as well as the lymph nodes from her neck.
Brooke survived her cancer experience and has since resumed her life. Her story, though, highlights some important facts about oral cancer.
Oral cancer is life-threatening. Although cases of oral cancer are rarer than other types of malignancies, the survival rate is low (50%). This is because lesions or other abnormalities are often dismissed as simple sores. Like any cancer, the earlier it's detected and treated, the better the chances for survival.
Anyone of any age can develop oral cancer. While most cases occur in older adults, young and otherwise healthy people like Brooke are not immune. It's important for everyone to make healthy lifestyle choices (good oral hygiene and nutrition, moderate alcohol use and avoidance of tobacco) and see a dentist whenever you see an abnormal sore or spot in your mouth.
Regular dental checkups are crucial for early detection. Had Brooke not seen her dentist soon after discovering the spots on her tongue, her survivability could have been drastically lower. Regular dental visits (and cancer screenings if you're at high risk) could mean all the difference in the world.
If you would like more information on the signs and treatment of oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can watch Brooke's interview by visiting How a Routine Dental Visit Saved My Life
Oral cancer is fairly rare and accounts for approximately two percent of all cancer diagnoses each year. It is most common among older adults, but at least one in eight cases develop in people under the age of 50. As with all forms of cancer, oral malignancies are most treatable and have the best chance of successful treatment when diagnosed early. The dental staff at Dentistry by Design in Andover, MA recommends regular oral cancer screenings to monitor any changes or abnormal growths in the oral cavity.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity including:
- Throat (Pharynx)
- Hard and soft palette (roof and floor)
The most common sign of cancer is a sore or wound in the mouth that does not heal, or frequently returns. Although common oral problems like canker sores are usually not a sign of cancer, contact a dentist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Sores that bleed or do not heal within a few weeks
- Unexplained difficulty and pain while chewing and swallowing
- Chronic hoarseness and loss of voice
- Pain and stiffness
- Changes in bite, tooth alignment or denture fit
What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Mouth and Throat Cancer?
Cancer results from mutations to healthy cells. Several factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer:
- All forms of tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Sun damage and overexposure to UV rays (lips)
- HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Weak or diminished immune system
Oral Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Andover, MA
The dentists at Dentistry by Design in Andover perform a comprehensive visual and physical examination of the tongue and inside of the mouth for the presence of patches or growths that could be easy to miss without a thorough oral exam.
Find a Dentist in Andover, MA
In addition to helping prevent tooth decay and gum disease, regular dental exams can detect early signs of oral cancer. To learn more about your individual risk factors, contact Dentistry by Design by calling (978) 475-5333 to schedule an appointment today.