Routine screenings can detect oral and oropharyngeal cancers early so that they may be treated quickly and effectively.
Annually, around 54,000 oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed, and approximately 11,000 people will die from the disease, according to the most recently available statistics from the American Cancer Society. Fortunately, oral cancer can be treated effectively, quickly, and conservatively when detected early enough. This is why regular oral cancer screenings are a part of your doctor’s exam at Benton Family Dentistry in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Dr. Kyle Benton can also pinpoint controllable risk factors for these cancers during your screenings, and can work with you to minimize or eliminate your risks.
Habits, behaviors, and other factors that increase one’s risk of developing oral and oropharyngeal cancers include:
- Use of tobacco products – The more you smoke, chew, or otherwise use these products, the greater your risk.
- Heavy alcohol consumption – In addition, heavy drinkers who smoke are 30 times more likely to develop these cancers than non-smokers and non-drinkers.
- HPV infection – Human papillomavirus is associated with both oral and oropharyngeal cancers; in fact, the American Cancer Society reports that around two of every three oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed with HPV DNA, indicative of HPV infections.
- Unprotected exposure to UV light – For most people, the most significant source of dangerous ultraviolet light is the sun’s rays. It’s important for individuals to protect their lips and lip region just as they would protect the rest of their skin with proper avoidance measures and broad-spectrum sunscreen products.
Of course, there are other risk factors that are beyond one’s control, such as age, gender, and genetics. Males and those aged 55 and older are more likely to develop these cancers than women and younger individuals. In addition, some inherited conditions and genetic mutations have been linked to considerably higher risks of developing mouth and pharynx cancers.
During a screening, Dr. B is visually looking for and “palpating” (feeling for) potential abnormalities that may warrant further investigation with a biopsy or small tissue sample. Potential red flags for these cancers include:
- Persistent sores that never seem to heal
- White- or red-colored patches
- Loose teeth or changes with how dentures and other appliances fit
- Growths or lumps
It is very important that you share with Dr. B any changes that you may have noticed; for instance, you may have noticed problems with swallowing, frequent hoarseness, and sore throats. To aid in confirming a diagnosis, Dr. B may use specialized tools to pinpoint potentially cancerous areas. We encourage you not to wait for problems to arise before scheduling a screening at Benton Family Dentistry. Call us at (501) 991-9132 or book an appointment on this website. As with other cancers, early detection of oral and oropharyngeal cancers can save lives.