Oral cancer is easily detectable and prompt screening and treatment can save your life. At our Miami dental office, Dr. Gallardo, as well as our registered hygienists, provide a variety of services including oral cancer screening.
Important Information about Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in the United States. Early detection and treatment can save your life. In fact, The Oral Cancer Foundation states that the survival rate for oral cancer is 80-90% when it’s detected early.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you need to promptly make an appointment for an oral cancer screening:
- Swelling, lumps, rough patches, on any area inside your mouth
- Velvety or speckled patches in your mouth
- Loss of feeling in your mouth, face, or neck area
- Unexplained bleeding inside your mouth
- Sores on the mouth, face, or neck that bleed easily and don’t heal within 2 weeks
- Chronic sore throat and hoarseness
- A feeling that something is stuck in the back of your throat
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, moving your jaw, or moving your tongue
- Ear pain
- Dramatic weight loss
- Change in the fit of your dentures
Who Is At Risk:
Some people are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer including:
- Those who smoke or chew tobacco (depending on the duration and frequency of tobacco use)
- Those who drink heavily (about 70% of people diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers)
- Those that are exposed to sunlight for long periods of time
- Those with a diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Those with a weak immune system
- Those who have been exposed to HPV16, or human papilloma virus type 16, through oral sex or open mouth kissing
- A very small percentage of people are genetically predisposed
- Those with poorly fitting dentures that tend to trap agents that have been proven to cause oral cancer, such as alcohol and tobacco
What can I expect during the exam?
We provide a complimentary oral cancer screening during your first visit and at every continuing care visit with our hygienists.
Oral cancer screening is quick and there is no discomfort involved. It will take less than five minutes to complete. During the screening, we will be looking inside your mouth for lumps, abnormalities, red, white, or grey areas, and any tenderness that you may be experiencing.
We are proud to have the latest and most cost effective oral fluorescence technology called OralID, which uses a blue light that allows us to identify abnormal lesions at an early stage. This technology, in conjunction with the clinical oral examination, helps us detect and discriminate between benign, dysplastic lesions and oral squamous cell carcinoma. Some mucosal, dysplastic, or even early stage cancer lesions may manifest in mucosa that appears to be normal clinically.
OralID was created by Forward Science Technology, a pioneer in the dental oncology field.
How will I be treated?
If an irregularity is found, it may or may not be cancer. Your periodontist and oral surgeon will have a discussion with you about any further actions that need to be taken.
You will be treated with the utmost care at our dental office. You will find that your exam is thorough, and our professionals treat their patients with superior care.
Understanding Oral Cancer
No one wants to think about getting cancer. But understanding the risk factors for and how to deal with certain types of cancer, such as oral cancer, is important for early detection and for increasing survival rates. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, around 2 percent of cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year are oral cancers, and there are around 36,000 cases diagnosed each year. While more than half of people diagnosed with oral cancer survive for at least five years, nearly 8,000 people die from it each year.
Seeing your dentist or periodontist regularly means that he or she can detect any signs of cancer before the disease has a chance to progress or metastasize. This early detection might save your life.
What Causes It?
Changes or mutations in a cell’s DNA can lead to oral cancer. The mutated cells continue to divide, eventually leading to a tumor. Although the specific cause of the mutations that lead to oral cancer isn’t fully understood, there are a number of risk factors that are thought to increase a person’s risk for developing cancer.
Smoking isn’t just one of the major risk factors when it comes to gum disease, which causes about 50 percent of all cases, according to the CDC. It’s also one of the leading causes of oral cancer. It’s not only smoking that is thought to increase a person’s risk for developing oral cancer, though. Smoking combined with heavy alcohol use is also a considerable risk factor.
Other factors that can increase a person’s risk for oral cancer include an HPV infection, poor diet and sun exposure. While a history of poor oral health or gum disease doesn’t directly cause oral cancers, it can increase a person’s risk for HPV, which can in turn increase cancer risk.
Can You Prevent It?
While there is no way to guarantee that you’ll never develop oral cancer, there are many things you can do to greatly reduce your risk of developing it. The first thing you can do is quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, make the choice not to start. Any type of tobacco can increase your risk for oral cancer, so you’ll want to make sure you avoid cigars and chewing tobacco, as well.
Since heavy alcohol consumption is another risk factor for oral cancer, without or with smoking, it’s a good idea to limit what you do drink.
Eating a diet that contains a lot of vegetables and fruits can also cut your risk for developing oral cancer. Produce tends to be high in vitamins, which can help fight free radicals. Along with helping reduce your oral cancer risk, a diet that has a lot of veggies and fruits can also be generally good for your teeth. Some veggies, such as carrots and celery, can help sweep bits of food and debris off the surface of your teeth, making them ideal to eat when you can’t brush your teeth right away.
Having a dentist clean and inspect your teeth on a regular basis is a must, not only for preventing oral cancer, but for detecting it early. The sooner any signs of oral cancer are detected, the better your chances.
Miami periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo can do more than treat gum disease or periodontal disease. They can detect signs of cancer or other growths in the early stages, and help you get the best treatment possible. To schedule a check-up or exam with the periodontists, call (305) 447-1447 today.