Regular dental checkups, which include an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of both oral cancer cancerous and precancerous conditions.
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Oral cancer is a devastating disease when detected in its later stages. Late stage treatment usually involves major facial surgery with only half of such patients surviving past five years. Therefore, it is important to see your dentist regularly so that dangerous oral lesions can be detected at an early, easily curable stage.
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Fortunately, most oral “sores” or “lesions” are not harmful. But a small number are dangerous, and if not identified early, they may progress to a more advanced stage.
Good News! When oral cancer is detected early by your dentist it can be completely cured.
Regular dental checkups, which include an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of both cancerous and precancerous conditions. A person may have a dangerous oral lesion and not be aware of it. Because harmful oral lesions often look identical to those that are harmless, the dentist cannot visually determine which lesions are troublesome. Only testing can do this. The dentist will perform a biopsy on the lesion in the mouth to determine whether there are potentially dangerous (precancerous or cancerous) cells present.
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In the majority of cases, the sample obtained will be normal, reassuring you and the dentist that the oral lesion does not contain precancerous or cancerous cell. Your dentist may need to test your lesion periodically if it persists or changes. Rest assured that both you and you dentist have taken the right first step to detect oral cancer early when it can be easily and completely cured.
Some facts about Oral Cancer
Oral cancer occurs more often in those who use tobacco in any form including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, and cigars; or those who consume large amounts of alcohol. But oral cancer can and does develop in people of all ages, races, and lifestyle habits. Over 25% of oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol socially.
(View The American Cancer Society Oral Cancer Guide)
Detecting Oral Cancer
An oral lesion may be a persistent sore or irritation, a small, flat, red or white patch, or a growth, lump, thickening, rough spot, crust, or irritated area.
It is often painless, and you may not be aware of it. Because many oral lesions are flat, very small, or in an area of your mouth that you cannot see, they can often only be detected during a periodic oral examination by your dentist.