Oral cancer is a hot topic lately due to an increase in its prevalence. It has been receiving coverage in news reports and was the focus of a recent blog post made by famed TV physician Dr. Oz.
This disease results from abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. It is the 13th most common form of cancer in Canada. In fact, in 2009 there were an estimated 3,400 new cases of oral cancers identified in Canada, and about 1,150 deaths occurred as a result of the disease. At that time the number of new cases and death due to oral cancer was predicted to be almost three times higher than that of cervical cancer and almost double the rates of liver cancer, with higher numbers of new cases and deaths in 2009 than stomach, brain and ovarian cancers. Sobering statistics, but early identification can slow progression, and ensure successful treatment.
The good news is that your dentist has the expert skill and training to detect early signs of the disease and can help you to understand your risks. North Burnaby Dental is not only a leader in the dental industry in Burnaby, but it also has the specialty equipment, technology and trained staff to specifically detect oral cancer in its very early stages.
Who is at risk, and what are the symptoms?
People over the age of 45 are most at risk, with men being more statistically likely to develop this disease than women at a ratio of two to one. Smoking or using tobacco products increases the risk, especially if combined with high alcohol consumption. The amount of alcohol consumed and the duration of use increases the risk for oral cancers. Other contributing factors include prolonged, repeated exposure of the lips to the sun, a poor diet, or a history of leukoplakia (a thick, whitish-colour patch inside the mouth).
Signs and symptoms of the disease include white or dark red patches in your mouth, or on your lips or tongue; lumps or changes in the texture or colour of the mouth tissues; bleeding or numbness in the mouth; sores or patches that do not heal; difficulty swallowing; or changes in taste or tongue sensation.
Stop using tobacco products — ask your dentist for information about available tools to help you quit. Limit your alcohol consumption, as well as your exposure to the sun. Using lip balms that contain U/V protectors are an added defence. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Check your mouth regularly for signs or symptoms and report any changes in your mouth to your dentist right away. Practice good oral hygiene.
The most important key is prevention. Since oral cancer rates have not decreased in recent years even though people visit their dentist more often, a regular oral screening test administered by your dentist is the best — and possibly life-saving — measure that you can take. North Burnaby Dental conducts professional, breakthrough screening tests for oral cancer using the Velscope, which is a non-invasive, hand-held device designed to easily examine the mouth for the early detection of a wide variety of oral diseases, including pre-cancer and cancer. By shining a specialized blue light into the oral cavity which enhances the contrast between normal and abnormal tissue, your dentist will be able to identify any unhealthy or pre-cancerous cells.
Diagnosis and treatment
Treatment depends on the severity and location of the disease, as well as the age and health of the patient. If oral cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the suspicious area may be taken. Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultra sounds, CT scans or MRIs may also be relied upon. If necessary, hemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery may be necessary to remove the affected tissue.
It cannot be underscored enough, however, that the earlier the detection, the more successful the outcome of treatment. See your dentist regularly, and inquire about oral cancer screening. It could save your life.