Why think about oral cancer? Houston general dentist, Dr. Mark Gray, and his associate dentist, Dr. Newman, routinely screen for this deadly disease because it strikes thousands of American adults each year. They want patients to understand its symptoms and risks, especially during this month of April which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a deadly cancer that affects the soft tissues of the mouth and the back of the throat (the oropharyngeal area). Striking young and old adults, most oral cancers are typically found in the over 40 age group. However, more and more individuals in the 25 to 55 year range are being diagnosed.
While in past years, oral cancer was largely ignored, medical professionals and particularly general dentists, such as Dr. Mark Gray in Houston, see the need for cancer screening with every routine dental exam.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
Oral cancer sometimes has no obvious symptoms, or it’s simply hidden in areas of the mouth and throat that are only visible on oral examination. Other cases of oral cancer do present with symptoms such as:
- A small ulcer or sore that lasts 2 to 3 weeks or more (red, white or black in color)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Painful chewing
- Earache on one side of the head
What are the risk factors?
Previously, men were at higher risk for oral cancer to the tune of 6 males to every one female. Now, says the Oral Cancer Foundation, the ratio is 2 men to one woman. While alcohol abuse, cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking and sun exposure (UV light) are common threads in soft tissue cancers of the mouth and throat, an additional risk factor plays a role in 25 to 55 year olds who are diagnosed.
This age group more frequently contracts HPV or the Human Papillomavirus. While this virus usually leaves a person’s system spontaneously without harming it, some individuals develop oral cancers from it. Young people, and particularly those with suppressed immune systems or who have multiple sexual partners, seem more prone. Hereditary factors may play a role, too–hence, the need to screen the 25 to 55 year old age group most carefully.
Screening with your Houston general dentist
It’s a fast, painless part of a routine dental examination. Dr. Gray will look at your face and feel the lymph nodes on the sides of your neck. He will visually inspect the tongue, under the tongue, roof of the mouth, cheeks, lips and gums for signs of swelling, sores or color changes. In less than 5 minutes, you’re done!
Get peace of mind about your dental health
Contact Dr. Gray’s friendly office team to schedule your 6-month check-up and hygienic cleaning. You’ll smile knowing you’re being vigilant about oral cancer screening along with the rest of your dental health.