Oral Cancer: What is your risk?
by Kasia - When you think of oral cancer you may think of the older gentleman who has been smoking for years and years and may enjoy an adult beverage or two every day. Yes you are right! This is the case.......sometimes. More and more we are learning of young non smoking individuals developing oral cancer, scary right? This is mostly due to the HPV virus. You’ve probably seen all the HPV commercials on TV encouraging young women to get vaccinated in order to prevent cervical cancer but they don’t mention that this is the very same virus, HPV16, that causes oral cancer!
Currently testing for the virus is done at the time of cervical exams and PAP smears but without this most individuals don’t even know they are carrying the virus and there are no symptoms. Here at The Tooth Doctors we take oral cancer very seriously and we screen EVERYONE at the initial comprehensive exam and routine hygiene visits with our Velscope cancer screening device. The Velscope’s blue light stimulates natural fluorescence in the soft tissues of your mouth, anything dark in appearance indicates an abnormality in the soft tissue cells. This does not always indicate oral cancer, it could mean you bit yourself or burned yourself so don’t panic. We will have you return in 2 weeks for another Velscope screening and in most cases the abnormality has healed. If it is still present we will send you to an oral pathologist for a biopsy just to be on the safe side. Some of the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include: • White or red patches on the soft tissues of the mouth • Ulcers or sores in the mouth or lip that do not heal within 14 days • A lump or growth on the lip or in the mouth, including the tongue • Bleeding in the mouth • Pain that does not go away • Persistent earache • Swollen salivary glands • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck • Numbness or loss or sensation over the tongue of lips • Swelling of the jaw Some of the advanced signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include: • Swelling in the neck • Inability to open the mouth fully (trismus) • Difficulty swallowing or chewing • Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw • Loss of appetite • Weight loss Some of the overall risk factors of developing oral cancer may include: • Tobacco use – in all its forms is a major contributor • Excessive alcohol consumption – More than 15 alcoholic beverages per week • Excessive and unprotected exposure to sun – Use at least SPF 30 sunblock on your lips • Poor dietary lifestyle – Be sure to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables • Age – Older individuals are at greater risk • HPV16 – Ensure you being screened regularly for this virus and limiting the number of sexual partners • Gender – Males tend to develop oral cancer more often You may be thinking a Velsope device screening at every hygiene visit? That sounds like an added expense? Nope! This is our standard of care and we do not charge any additional fees for this because we care about your oral health and we believe in treating you like we would our own family members. Feel free to stop in with any questions regarding oral cancer or our Velscope or don’t hesitate to ask questions at your next routine hygiene visit, we’re here to help.