It doesn’t get a lot of attention in the media, but oral cancer is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects thousands of American each year. Here’s the good news: if oral cancer is caught early enough, it’s usually treatable.
That’s why it’s so important to see a dentist in St. Petersburg, FL for twice yearly checkups. During a comprehensive exam, your dentist can spot early signs of cancer so the problem can be addressed as soon as possible.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in your mouth. About 2/3 of oral cancers are found in the mouth. This can include your lips, the lining of your lips and your cheeks. The remaining are located in the pharynx or the area of your throat that sits behind your mouth and nasal cavity.
What Are the Types of Oral Cancer?
The most common type of oral cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma. More than 90 percent of oral cancers that occur are this type. Your throat and mouth are lined with flat cells that are arranged in a scale-like pattern. These are called squamous cells. Squamous cell carcinoma indicates some of these cells are abnormal.
Roughly 5 percent of oral cancers are verrucous carcinoma. This is a slow growing cancer made up of squamous cells. It usually doesn’t spread to other parts of your body, but it can infiltrate surrounding tissues.
Several kinds of oral cancer can form in your minor salivary glands. These carcinomas form in your minor salivary glands which line your mouth and throat.
When an oral cancer develops in lymphoid tissue, it’s called lymphoma. You have lymphoid tissue in your tonsils and at the base of your tongue.
Some growths in your mouth are benign tumors which means they aren’t cancerous. However, some types of benign tumors can become cancerous. Therefore, your dentist will likely recommend they be removed surgically. Read more about preparing for oral surgery on our blog.
How Many People Get Oral Cancer?
Statistics indicate about 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with a form of oral cancer each year. Of those, some 7,500 will die from the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The following are symptoms of oral cancer:
- A persistent mouth sore that will not heal.
- Persistent pain in your mouth.
- A lump or thickening in your cheek
- White or red patches anywhere in your mouth.
- Feeling you always have something caught in your throat.
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving your jaw or tongue.
- Numbness in your mouth or tongue.
If you have any of these symptoms, please don’t wait for your six-month exam to talk with us about it. Call today and schedule an appointment at our St. Petersburg dental office.