Cavities, Bad Breath and Other Embarrassing Topics

A Guide to Oral Cancer

The term 'oral cancer' refers to any cancer that originates in or around the mouth. Oral cancer usually occurs on the lips and tongue but can also affect the cheeks, gums and tonsils as well as the roof and floor of the mouth. As Very Well explains, oral cancer is a serious and potentially fatal illness, but like many cancers, it is much more treatable if it is caught early. This brief guide explains how the symptoms of oral cancer present themselves, as well as how it is diagnosed and how it is treated.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Cancer Council Australia lays out some of the common symptoms of oral cancer. You may experience dental problems such as loose teeth, discoloured patches on the gums or unexplained bleeding. Some people have obvious sores or lumps, while some simply experience changes in how they speak, eat or swallow. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your dentist for a check-up as soon as possible. 

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

Most diagnoses of oral cancer begin with a visit to the dentist, who will notice signs of cancer during your regular check-up. They will ask you questions about your overall health and may take a swab of the affected area. This means that visiting the dentist regularly is vital in order to spot the cancer at an early stage. This is especially relevant to people who smoke or drink alcohol on a regular basis, as both of these things increase your risk of oral cancer. If your dentist is worried about oral cancer, they will refer you to a specialist who will do further tests.

Treatment For Oral Cancer

There are three main treatment options for oral cancer. The first is surgery, where the affected tissue is removed, along with some surrounding tissue. The other options are radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both. Your doctor will be able to advise you on which treatment is most appropriate for you and what the side effects are likely to be. 

Oral cancer is undoubtedly a dangerous condition, but your chances of a full and speedy recovery are much higher if the cancer is discovered at an early stage. You should see a dentist on a regular basis, and be sure to ask them about oral cancer if you are concerned about it. You may also want to look for dentists who advertise an oral cancer screening as part of their regular check-ups, especially if you are particularly at risk for oral cancer.