What You Need to Know about Oral Cancer

Oral CancerAn estimated 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. That’s about 115 every day. This potentially deadly disease impacts twice as many men as women. Men over 50 are at the greatest risk. Dr. Heeyup Ghim of Black Mountain Dental in Henderson NV understands the dangers of oral cancer and performs an oral cancer screening exam at all new patient exams and during regular dental checkups. Early detection is the key to combating this devastating disease.

What does oral cancer look like?

Oral cancer typically starts as a growth or sore in the mouth. Sometimes, the lesion can be very small. You might notice a lump or thickening of tissue that looks white or speckled. Oral cancer can impact any oral tissue, including the lips, cheeks, roof of the mouth, bottom of the mouth, throat, tongue, and even the sinuses. Sometimes, facial numbness or a sore throat with a hoarse voice will occur. Any sore or suspicious looking lesion that persists longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a doctor.

What causes oral cancer?

  • A primary cause is tobacco use.* Chewing tobacco use increases the risk of oral cancer by a factor of 50.
  • A family history of oral cancer increases a person’s risk of developing the disease.
  • Alcohol consumption in excess increases the risk by a factor of 6.*
  • Too much sun exposure, especially during a person’s youth, elevates the risk.

*It’s important to note, however, that more than 25% of oral cancer cases occur in non-smokers and occasional drinkers.

What does an oral cancer exam feel like?

Dr. Ghim will look in your mouth to examine your oral tissues for suspicious areas. He may feel for lumps in your face, head, and neck. If he identifies a lesion that requires further investigation, a biopsy can be performed and the sample sent to a lab for analysis.

Small, painless lesions that may go unnoticed by you can be evident to a doctor during an oral cancer exam. By detecting the disease in the early stage, treatment can begin to improve long-term prognosis.

We’re always here to help. If you have questions about oral cancer or want to schedule an exam, don’t hesitate to call our Henderson NV dentist’s office.