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Learn How You Can Protect Yourself Against Life-Threatening Oral Cancer

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Help ensure a healthy mouth by visiting your dentist at least twice a year for a complete dental check-up.

Oral cancer is a serious and often lethal disease, and the best way to prevent oral cancer is to catch it at its earliest stages. During every visit to your dentist, your mouth will be examined for signs of any problems, including the first signs of oral cancer. By learning more about oral cancer symptoms and visiting your dentist regularly, you can help protect yourself and your family from suffering with this disease.

Though not often discussed, oral cancer is a serious problem:  more than 28,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year, and roughly one-quarter of those people do not survive for more than five years.  Oral cancer may occur in any part of the mouth, such as the throat, lips, gums, and salivary glands.

Oral cancer is most effectively treated in its earliest stages, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following possible oral cancer symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Pain in one ear
  • Numbness in the mouth or jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Sores or bumps inside the mouth
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Bump in the neck

During a regular dental examination, every dentist conducts an oral cancer screening.  He or she will look for abnormal changes in the teeth, gums, and mouth.  The early stages of oral cancer typically present as white or red spots in the mouth, and can be difficult to see with the naked eye.  Fortunately, there are a number of oral cancer screening systems available to detect oral cancer in its infancy.  If you have a family history of oral cancer or are especially susceptible to this form of cancer, it's a good idea to find a dentist who features these tools.

Oral cancer is diagnosed through a biopsy, performed by either a dentist or an oncologist.  Treatment of oral cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.  Often, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used to destroy any cancer that was not removed during surgery.  Many patients who have successfully treated their oral cancer may need reconstructive surgery to improve both the functionality and the appearance of the treated area.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to reduce risk factors, which include smoking and the use of spitting tobacco.  It is also important to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a complete oral cancer screening.

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