10 Dec What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer
Oral Cancer is not a rare disease and in fact it is occurring more frequently in a younger population. At one time, oral cancer was associated almost exclusively with tobacco and alcohol use, as well as aging. A dramatic increase in the past few years is believed to be caused by exposure to HPV, specifically HPV 16 which is responsible for more cervical cancers.
HPV otherwise known as human papilloma virus has over 100 strains. This virus derives its name from what it can cause-warts otherwise known as papilloma. Some strains may cause visible warts on the hands/feet whereas some other strains infect other areas of the body but with a lack of symptoms making the disease undetectable without professional screening.
Some strains of HPV can cause a sexually transmitted disease called genital warts which can increase the chance of developing genital and reproductive organ cancers in both women and men.
In regards to oral cancer, dental professionals are also concerned about these strains as they can infect the soft tissue of the oral cavity/throat and can increase the chance of developing oral and/or throat cancers. Screening for oral cancer is important in anyone who is sexually active; this includes both teens and adults. New vaccines that are now accessible for prevention of HPV which may also work to prevent HPV-related oral cancer.
At your dental cleaning and examination appointments your oral cavity should be screened for oral cancer. This usually entails both visual and palpation of the soft tissue of the mouth, throat, neck and face which takes about 5 minutes. A thorough exam like this enables the oral care professional to see any changes within the mouth.
Besides visual and manual palpation some dental offices use an oral cancer screening devices which use different wavelengths of light to detect tissue changes, sometimes well before they are visible with the naked eye.
If you experience any of these common warning signs, please book an appointment to see your dentist.
-red or white patch in the mouth that last more than two weeks
-hoarseness or change in the voice that does not go away
-a sore throat that does not go away
-swelling, pain or a sore in the mouth or neck that does not subside
When oral cancer is detected in early stages survival rate is high. We recommend you check your mouth on a monthly basis at home for any changes. When visiting your dentist and dental hygienist ask them if they are performing an oral cancer exam at each visit.
At Northern Dental Care we use Velscope as an adjunctive screening tool to our regular oral cancer examination on a yearly basis to screen for oral cancer. Research has shown that Velscope may enable a dental professional to visualize tissue changes well before they are visualized or palpated.