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Dr. Faith Aboona discuses important issues and answers your questions about oral care for you and your family.

What You Need to Know about Detecting Oral Cancer

26 May

dental care romeo mi

Oral cancer affects 36,500 people each year, and almost 7,900 people die annually from this disease. Protect yourself with early detection. Eighty-three percent of people diagnosed with this cancer survive five years or longer when the cancer remains localized, but only 32 percent reach that five-year mark when their cancer spreads. Increase your chances of survival when you learn more about how to detect oral cancer.

“I came in for my routine 6 month teeth cleaning at Dr. Aboona’s office. I was asked to take whole mouth x rays as it had been 2 years. After my cleaning, Dr. Aboona wanted to talk to me about these x-rays. Much to my surprise, I was informed I had a cyst in my jaw. I had no pain, no idea anything was going on in my mouth. I was referred to an oral surgeon where her findings proved to be a 34 mm cyst that had taken my jaw bone down to the thickness of a hair. Surgery was successful and thank God it wasn’t cancer.”

“I can only thank Dr. Aboona for having this whole mouth machine as bitewings didn’t find this cyst. My jaw bone is slowly growing back and I have a healthy mouth again.”

Vickie Piwonski,
Washington Twp, MI

Oral Cancer: Understand the Risks

While you can’t eliminate your cancer risk, you can make several key lifestyle changes that reduce your chances of developing this cancer.

1. Stop smoking and cut alcohol use. You’re at-risk if you smoke or drink, but your risk increases when you participate in both activities.

2. Avoid HPV. Human papilloma virus, particularly HPV 16, is sexually transmitted and linked to oral cancer.

3. Understand that age affects risk. You can’t go back in time, but since most oral cancer cases are reported in people over 40, make sure you’re getting annual detection exams.

4. Eat a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables. Your healthy diet reduces your cancer risk.

5. Reduce sun exposure. Wearing a protective lip balm with a minimum SPF 20 can reduce lip cancer.

Oral Cancer: Know the Warning Signs

While you can’t self-diagnose oral cancer, you can keep an eye out for warning signs. They include:

  • Red or white lesions on your lips, tongue, gums or inner cheeks.
  • Thickening of or lumps in your mouth’s soft tissue
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Ear pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty moving your tongue or jaw
  • If you notice any of these warning signs, see your dentist. He or she will perform an exam and possibly order diagnostic tests.

Avoid Oral Cancer: Prioritize Dental Visits

Most dentists recommend exams and cleanings every six months. Consider seeing the dentist every three months if you smoke, are pregnant or already have gum disease or oral cancer. During these visits, your dentist will visually examine your mouth for signs of cancer. He or she will also discuss your family’s oral health history, your current behavior and other risk factors.

Early detection is one of the best ways to prevent oral cancer and protect your health. Do a self-examination and schedule your next dental checkup today. These simple actions could save your life.

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