5 Symptoms of Oral Cancer That You Should Look For

5 Symptoms of Oral Cancer That You Should Look For

Taking responsibility for your health involves being screened for various types of cancer and other conditions on a regular basis. We often hear about the importance of mammograms and routine colonoscopies in detecting breast and colon cancer, respectively. 

But did you know that, just by visiting your dentist, you can be screened for oral cancer? Over 54,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, a figure that includes those diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal (the midportion of the throat) cancer. 

Fortunately, oral cancer screening is an important part of your care at Popper Dental, on New York City’s Upper East Side. 

Dr. Marlisa Popper, Dr. Jason Popper, and Dr. Howard Popper are all about preventive care, and they encourage patients to look for signs and symptoms that may point to oral cancer

Oral cancer affects many parts of your mouth

If you open your mouth wide and take a good long look in the mirror, you see just how many areas there are inside your mouth. Your teeth, gums, inner cheeks, and mouth floor (the area under your tongue and between the two sides of your lower jawbone) all have their purposes.

Your lips, tongue, and hard and soft palates (which comprise the roof of your mouth) are also essential when it comes to speaking, chewing, and swallowing. 

Any of these areas can be affected by oral cancer, an out-of-control proliferation of cells that, when they spread over time, destroy tissue.

Five signs of oral cancer

At Popper Dental, we not only check you for signs and symptoms of oral cancer at each of your dental checkups, we provide information that allows you to self-monitor for signs of oral cancer. 

At home, we encourage you to watch out for:

1. Loose teeth

If you have loose teeth that aren’t the result of poor oral health care, they may indicate oral cancer. The same goes for bleeding in your mouth that you can’t connect to any obvious cause. 

2. A persistent mouth sore

Most people deal with the discomfort and nuisance of canker sores at some point in their lives. But if you notice a spot or sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal, get it checked out. It too could be a sign of oral cancer. 

3. Unexplained weight loss

A natural way for the body to combat oral cancer is to manufacture cytokines, proteins that help govern the cells in your immune system, as well as blood cells. 

In essence, they send a message to the immune system to do the work it’s designed to do. However, cytokines are associated with weight and muscle loss, as well as loss of appetite. 

4. Growths, or red or white patches

Anytime you notice a bumpy protrusion, whether on your tongue, gum, or anywhere else in your mouth or on your neck, it’s cause for concern. Red or white patches are also worrisome. This is why knowing your body and being observant about changes are critical. 

5. Noticeable pain

It’s hard to miss when inexplicable pain emerges anywhere in your throat or jaw, or on your tongue, but even ear pain is linked to oral cancer. 

Talk to your dentist if you notice any other unusual things, like if part of your mouth feels numb or your dentures start to fit improperly or aren’t as comfortable. 

Your dentist’s role in oral cancer screening

We look for signs of oral cancer by examining the inside of your mouth, your lips and tongue, and the lymph nodes in your neck. If we find anything suspicious, we might advise:

Your cell or tissue sample is then sent to a lab for analysis. 

What if you’re diagnosed with oral cancer?

Don’t delay seeing us if you detect any of these symptoms, since early diagnosis is key. 

We refer our patients diagnosed with oral cancer to expert providers. Treatment includes tumor removal surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy drugs, or a combination of these. 

In addition to routine care, the Popper Dental team offers oral cancer survivors restorative treatments, such as implants, crowns, and dentures

Call us at our Manhattan office to make an appointment to get checked for oral cancer, or reach out to us through our website.

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