More than 10,000 people lose their lives to oral cancer every year. But the five-year survival rate is approximately 60 percent. By working with your dentist, you can catch symptoms early, which is often the key to a better outcome.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat. It may show up as an unusual lump or spot on the inside or outside of your lips, your cheeks, teeth, throat, on or under the tongue, along your gumline and on the roof or floor of your mouth.
Early detection can save your life. Because many of these issues can be seen by using a mirror and a bright light, you can serve as your first line of defense against oral cancer. That’s why it’s important to do monthly self-checks to detect any possible issues.
The most common symptoms
Be aware of the following mouth symptoms and see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks:
- Red or white patches
- A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in your mouth or on your lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty or pain when chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
- Bleeding in your mouth
- A lump in your neck or cheek
- Unexplained ear pain without hearing loss
- A feeling that something is caught in your throat
How your dentist helps
Dental checkups can be an effective way to catch oral cancer early. They are also 100 percent covered under most dental plans. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, make sure to schedule regular checkups.
During your checkup, tell your dentist about any symptoms you are experiencing. Your dentist will check your mouth and throat and feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or abnormalities.
If your dentist detects anything unusual, further testing will likely be recommended.