What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer & Screening

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all about oral cancer screening

Statistics maintained by the Canadian Cancer Society indicate that approximately 5,400 Canadians were diagnosed with cancers affecting the mouth and oral cavity in 2020 (roughly two-thirds men and roughly one-third women). Approximately 1,500 Canadians died of oral cancers in 2020.

As is the case with every other form of cancer, early detection is incredibly important for effective treatment of and survival from oral cancer. The statistics bear that out. We’ll explain what the statistics tell us about lip cancer, tongue cancer and cancers affecting the floor of your mouth. When those forms of cancer are detected before it spreads beyond that location, the five-year survival rates are 93%, 78% and 75%. That means that 93% of people with lip cancer that is detected early, for example, will survive for at least five years.

What if oral cancer is not detected early, though. If lip cancer, tongue cancer or cancer affecting the floor of your mouth is not detected until it has spread to adjacent tissues, those five-year survival rates drop to 48%, 63% and 38%. If those cancers are not detected until cancer has metastasized in remote locations in your body, the five-year survival rates are even lower: 52%, 36% and 20%

The purpose of sharing those statistics isn’t to scare anyone but is only this: To point out just how important getting oral screening is. Dentists will screen patients for symptoms of irregular cells that may indicate the presence of oral cancer at every regular checkup. If there appear to be any signs of such irregular cells, your dentist in Saskatoon will investigate further and/or refer you to specialist medical professionals for immediate investigations, interventions and treatment. The goals of oral cancer screening in Saskatoon are simple: to detect cancer as early as possible; and to increase your chance to receive effective treatment.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The following lengthy list identifies the most common symptoms of oral cancer. The presence of any of these symptoms does not mean you have oral cancer. Many of these symptoms arise in other medical conditions — innocuous and serious — other than oral cancer. The presence of these symptoms should, however, trigger you to make an appointment with a physician or dentist as soon as possible — especially if you have any of the risk factors for oral cancer:

●  The most common symptom of oral cancer is a persistent ulcer or sore in your mouth or lip
●  A second common symptom of oral cancer is persistent mouth pain
●  White, red and mixed red-and-white patches on your lips or in your mouth
●  A thickened lining of the inside of your cheek
●  Bleeding in your mouth
●  Loose teeth
●  Dentures that don’t fit properly any longer
●  Slurred speech
●  Persistent earaches
●  Swollen salivary glands or swollen lymph nodes
●  Loss of sensation or numbness affecting your tongue or lips
●  A swollen jaw
●  Changes to your voice
●  Pain while swallowing
●  Unexplained weight loss

The known risk factors associated with oral cancer include smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol, a diagnosis of human papillomavirus (HPV), previous cancer diagnoses, family history of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), excessive exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet radiation, a weakened immune system, a diagnosis of graft-versus-host-disease, poor oral health and inherited medical conditions.

Be sure to tell your dentist in Saskatoon about any symptoms of oral cancer that you experience between your dental appointments. If you do not currently have a dentist but are concerned about symptoms or risk factors contact a dentist in Saskatoon and ask for careful screening of your case. Undergoing oral cancer screening may save your life.