Posts for tag: oral cancer
Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.
As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.
Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.
Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.
Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
Need to get an oral cancer screening from us? Don’t worry; we’ll give you the skinny on this simple diagnostic evaluation.
It’s important to visit our Cedar Park, TX dentist, Dr. Jason Dyson, every six months. Why? Besides the obvious dental cleanings and exams, we can also perform a quick oral cancer screening. Find out more about what puts someone at risk for oral cancer and what a screening involves.
Q. Is an oral cancer screening a normal part of my routine dental checkup?
A. Getting an oral cancer screening should be a typical portion of your routine checkups. When you come in for your preventive exams we will check your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. It only takes a couple minutes and it could just save your life.
Q. Is a screening painful?
A. Absolutely not! All we do is look in your mouth for any unusual growths. If you are experiencing any symptoms like a chronic sore throat or cough these are things you should let us know about right away. Only if we find something suspicious will we need to do additional testing. The best way to determine whether a growth or lump is cancer is to get a biopsy. Early detection is vitally important and by performing a biopsy we can determine whether the growth is benign or cancerous.
Q. What puts you at risk for oral cancer?
A. There are several factors that could increase your chances of developing oral cancer including:
- Smoking or tobacco usage
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- HPV infection
- Gender (men are more likely than women to develop oral cancer)
- Long-term exposure to UV light
- Certain genetic conditions
Q. How often should I be screened?
A. If you don’t have any risk factors and you have never had oral cancer in the past then you can get away with only getting screened once a year during your routine checkups. If you are at a high risk of developing oral cancer or if you have been diagnosed in the past then you may need to come in more often for routine screenings.
Is it time for your six-month dental cleaning? Do you have questions about oral cancer screenings? Don’t hesitate to call Parmer Oaks Dental Care in Cedar Park, TX today to schedule your next visit or to get your questions answered.
If you’ve noticed a small sore in your mouth, it’s possible you have a non-contagious disease known as lichen planus. Although usually benign, it’s still a good idea to have it examined and monitored.
The condition is so named because its lesions are similar in appearance to lichen, the algae and fungi organism often found on rocks and trees. It’s believed to be a type of autoimmune disease, in which the body treats some of its own cells as foreign and reacts adversely to them. Certain medications and substances may also cause a lichenoid reaction. Besides the inner cheeks, gums or tongue, lichen planus may also appear on other skin or mucous surfaces on the wrists, legs or fingernails.
When it appears inside the mouth it usually resembles a lacy pattern of white lines or ulceration. Gum tissues may become red and inflamed, with some soreness after brushing or eating. Although there’s no known cure for lichen planus, it rarely causes serious problems — in fact, you may not even be aware you have the condition unless pointed out during a dental exam. It may, in time, fade away.
If the lesions do become bothersome (painful, itchy or overly-sensitive), there are some ways to ease discomfort: brushing with a soft toothbrush (to minimize irritation), flossing, and avoiding acidic or spicy foods and beverages which have been known to cause flare-ups. Managing stress is also helpful, and a topical steroid may be prescribed for more severe outbreaks.
Perhaps the greatest concern with lichen planus, though, is it may resemble more serious conditions, particularly oral cancer. The only way to be certain that it is a benign condition is to perform a biopsy on some of the affected tissue. If you notice a problem, be sure to visit us for a complete examination. And regardless of whether you have the condition or not, regular oral cancer screenings, as well as limits on alcohol consumption and stopping use of tobacco, will also reduce your risk of oral cancer.
Odds are if you have a case of lichen planus it isn’t causing you any problems. If it does cause you discomfort, though, you can take steps to ease your symptoms.
What's one of the easiest cancer screening exams? Oral cancer screening! Now part of routine dental check-ups by family dentists such as Dr. Jason W. Dyson at Parmer Oaks Dental Care in Cedar Park, TX, oral cancer screening is fast and painless.
According to the American Dental Association, oral cancer has a 5-year survival rate of just 64 percent if diagnosed late in the disease process. With early detection, however, that number improves to over 80 percent.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer affects the back of the throat, the lips and the soft tissues inside the mouth such as the:
- inside of the cheeks
- hard palate (roof of the mouth)
- a swelling or lump that does not go away
- red or white patches
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
- sore throat
- a change in how teeth bite together or in how a partial or full denture fits
Unfortunately, symptoms are not always obvious to the individual, and that's why dentists screen for oral cancer.
The Screening Process
Dr. Dyson checks for oral cancer as part of semi-annual adult exams. Visual inspection is his best tool as he looks for swellings, sores, and color changes. He also palpates or feels the lymph nodes of the neck. Some dentists use a special light to help visualize areas of concern in the mouth. If an area appears suspicious, a simple biopsy is performed and sent out for lab analysis.
Who is at Risk
As with any cancer, some people are more at risk than others for developing oral cancer. Among the risk factors are:
- age (over 40)
- being male
- chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes
- heavy alcohol use
- sun exposure (cancer on the lips)
- exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV16 which is sexually-transmitted)
Don't Be Afraid
Dr. Dyson and his professional team encourage their patients that good dental care includes oral cancer screening. A simple exam, including in a routine dental check-up, really saves lives. It's what you don't know that can hurt you.
Contact Dr. Dyson to schedule your routine hygienic cleaning and check-up today. If you're new to Parmer Oaks Dental Care in the Cedar Park area, take advantage of the $99 new patient special. It includes a comprehensive oral exam, x-rays and cleaning. Call (512) 528-8900.
Good nutrition is vital for maintaining health and preventing disease, especially for your mouth. A diet rich in whole foods — fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products — and low in sugar will not only promote strong teeth and gums, but lessen your chances of developing tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.
Diet is also a prominent factor in reducing the risk for another serious mouth disease — oral cancer. While oral cancer makes up only 3% of total cancer cases reported annually, the five-year survival rate is a sobering 50%, much lower than for other types of common cancers. While genetics plays a role in your susceptibility to oral cancer, lifestyle choices and practices present the greater risk factors for the disease.
Of these lifestyle factors, refraining from tobacco products, moderating your alcohol consumption and avoiding risky sexual behavior are of primary importance in reducing your cancer risk. With that said, you should also take into account the foods that are part of your daily diet — both what you should and shouldn’t eat. As an example of the latter, some foods contain a class of chemicals known as nitrosamines that are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). One such chemical, nitrite, is used as a preservative in meats like bacon or ham, and may also be found in beer, and seafood products.
On the positive side, your diet should be rich in foods that supply antioxidants, substances that protect the body’s cells from damaging, unstable molecules known as free radicals. The best sources for antioxidants (more so than dietary supplements) are plant foods rich in fiber and vitamins C and E. Eating more of these may also reduce your intake of nitrates, animal fat and saturated fat.
Adopting a moderate, nutritious diet, along with exercise, can have a huge positive impact on your general health and quality of life. Along with other lifestyle changes, better dietary choices can also help ensure a healthy mouth and reduce your risk of oral cancer.
If you would like more information on the role of nutrition in reducing your risk of oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”