Brushing Up Blog

What Does Oral Cancer Look Like?

I was reading an article not long ago about a patient who noted a sore in her mouth. She mentioned it to her physician. The physician examined the area and scheduled the patient to be rechecked in 7 days. At the patient’s dental appointment she again mentioned the sore in her mouth. The dentist immediately sent the patient to have the area biopsied. This lesion, thought to be a canker sore by the patient, was cancer!

This story reminds me how important it is to listen to our patients. Although the patient thought the area was just a canker sore, her vigilance in mentioning to her health care providers quite possibly saved her life!

Oral cancer accounts for roughly two percent of all cancers diagnosed annually in the USA. The ability to detect and treat cancerous lesions around the lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue saves lives!

Healing typically takes 7-10 days in the mouth. Any sore in the mouth that does not heal within this amount of time should be checked immediately!
Canker Sores are typically found on the inside of the lips or cheeks and are extremely painful. These sores are not contagious. Causes range from viral infections to stress. Topical ointments or rinses can help control the pain until the site is completely healed.

Cold Sores are red, fluid-filled blisters that appear near the mouth- often on the corner of the lips. These sores are caused by a virus called Herpes simplex type 1. Cold sores are contagious and can be spread by direct contact or sharing food/drink. Although there is not a cure for the Herpes simplex 1 virus prescription treatment options can control the pain and promote healing as well as decrease the occurrence of break outs.

oral cancerOral cancer presents in several ways. White lesions called leukoplakia and red lesions called erythroplakia could be precursers to cancer. Possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer that patients report include a lump or thickening in the oral soft tissue, soreness or a feeling that something is caught in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, hoarseness, numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth or swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.

Oral cancer can happen to anyone! It is more prevalent in men and cigarette/cigar/pipe smokers.

Our advice to you is to be vigilant! Mention any mouth sores to your health care professional. And, make sure that your dental provider completes an oral cancer screening at every recare appointment!

Until next time,

Keep smiling, sharing, and caring

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