The Canadian Dental Association estimated than in early 2000 approximately 3,100 new cases of oral cancer were identified in Canada. During that time period, there were also about 1,090 deaths as a result of the disease. Like other cancers, oral cancer is a direct result of abnormal cell growth – in this case, in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. Those over the age of 45 are most at risk. The best news is that oral cancer can be successfully treated if caught early, and clearly that depends on personal vigilance.
At the Accolade Dental Centre, our professionals have the skill and training to accurately detect early signs of oral cancer. As well, with effective cancer screening, they can help patients to understand the risks, and of course, undertake the means for prevention. No doubt, regular dental exams are highly recommended, as are routine cancer screening tests. But beyond knowing and understanding the risk factors, it’s the basics that are critical – like smoking cessation; reduced alcohol consumption; and using sunscreen.
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer are often obvious and sometimes alarming – it’s a very good way to get your attention. You might see white or red patches inside your mouth or on your lips (or tongue). You may notice unusual lumps or changes in texture or colour of the mouth tissue. You may experience bleeding or numbness in the mouth, where sores don’t heal. Or, you may find that swallowing is difficult. There may even be some changes in taste or tongue sensation. In short, if it’s unusual, it’s worth checking.
There are other signs and symptoms that may surface, but it all depends on a patient’s personal condition. The important thing is to be personally alert and attentive. Nothing quite compares with a screening exam performed by a dentist where signs of cancer (or even pre-cancer) might be detected. The primary goal, in fact, is early detection, because early detection allows for a greater chance of cure. At the Accolade Dental Centre, our dental professionals can perform this kind of screening during a routine office visit.
According to national dental associations, there is no single oral exam or screening test that is foolproof on its own. And since every patient has varying risk factors, a personal and frank discussion with the dentist is most relevant – indeed, there may be a need to make use of additional tests in an effort to identify abnormal cells in the mouth. Clearly, its better to be safe than sorry, and that means three things: reducing risk factors and lifestyle choices; appropriate dental health regimen; and regular dental appointments.
At the Accolade Dental Centre, the focus is on prevention, and that means having regular oral examinations every six months. This may well vary, depending on the individual, and depending on a specific treatment plan, but its all designed to be proactive – to ensure proper dental health maintenance – and to pre-empt the possibility of serious health issues down the road.