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Careington 500 Dental Plan

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a very prevalent form of cancer. Most cases of oral cancer appear in those older than 50, but any age level can develop it. Most frequently found on the tongue, mouth floor, soft palate. lips, and gums, oral cancer can spread and lead to typical cancer results: pain, disfigurement, or even death. Luckily, oral cancer is now far less mysterious; your dentist can screen for it at your regular appointments.

As with most cancers, the cause of oral cancer is still unknown. That said, the usual suspects are often to blame as risk factors, especially tobacco, alcohol, and sun exposure.

As mentioned above, however, your dentist can help identify the early stages of oral cancer. He or she will likely offer oral cancer screenings at every regular checkup. The dentist will examine you by feeling for unusual lumps or lesions in your mouth and its surrounding areas - the head, the neck, etc.

You already know many of the risk factors for cancer - tobacco and excessive alcohol use, for example. The risk of oral cancer skyrockets in those who partake in both of those, far beyond that of those who abstain. And another method of avoiding oral cancer has been found recently: eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables has been found to lower the risk. However, probably the most crucial step in dodging oral (or any) cancer is early detection. Keeping up your dental appointments - and undergoing oral cancer screenings at each one - drastically lowers the chances of long-term cancer development. So, if your dentist doesn't explicitly offer an oral cancer screening at your regular exams, be sure to suggest it yourself.

To that end, it may be helpful to recognize the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer. The first signs are typically lesions or discolored patches in or around the mouth. It is important to be vigilant in your checking - these early symptoms are often painless at first. But as the cancer spreads and demolishes tissue, these lesions become more painful and troublesome. But while keeping your own eye out for signs of trouble is important, your dentist is much more versed in the diagnosis, so make sure that he or she is examining your mouth as well. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you notice a long-lasting sore in or on your mouth (of more than two weeks), a new growth around the mouth or neck, discolored patches or lumps, multiple episodes of bleeding from your mouth, or long-term trouble with swallowing or hoarse throat.

If your dentist notices something troublesome, he or she will likely call for a biopsy of the affected spot to confirm a cancerous presence. From there, you will likely be presented with any number of treatment options, including surgery to extract the tumor(s), chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. As unpleasant as the treatment options may seem, I urge you to be vigilant in your observation and fast in your approach to treatment. Your long-term health - and perhaps even your life - are at stake.