6 Questions You Never Thought to Ask About Oral Cancer

  • Nov 20 2022

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 54,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Oral cancer is cancer that forms in any of the parts that make up your oral cavity. 

If you have a diagnosis of oral cancer or know someone who does, there are some important questions you may never have thought to ask. Six of these questions are answered below.

1. What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Many times, the symptoms of oral cancer get mistaken for less serious conditions, like mouth sores or tooth issues. Some common symptoms include:

  • Persistent mouth pain
  • Persistent mouth sores
  • Lump in the cheek
  • White or red patches on the tongue, gums, tonsils, or mouth lining
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Voice changes
  • Pain in teeth or jaw

If any of these symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or get worse, it is crucial you get medical attention.

2. What type of doctor can help?

If you have symptoms of oral cancer, you have to turn to an oncologist or an otolaryngologist who has specific training in the treatment of mouth and throat diseases. 

3. What are the common treatment options for oral cancer?

To treat oral cancer, your doctor may turn to one therapy option or a combination of them. This can depend on the location of the cancer and how advanced it is. If it hasn’t spread, surgery can be a good option. Surgery can also treat recurrent cancer, especially when combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Some of the surgical options available include:

  • Tumor resection
  • Mohs micrographic surgery
  • Glossectomy
  • Mandibulectomy
  • Maxillectomy
  • Neck dissection

A tumor resection involves removing the tumor, while Mohs micrographic surgery removes very thin slices of the tumor at a time. 

A glossectomy is a procedure that removes all or part of the tongue. If the cancer is on the hard palate, you might have a maxillectomy, which removes part of the upper jaw, while a mandibulectomy removes part or all of the lower jaw. 

During a neck dissection, the surgeon removes some or all of the neck lymph nodes. 

4. Who is most at risk for oral cancer?

People who use tobacco products are most at risk of developing oral cancer. This includes smoking and chewing tobacco. Excessive alcohol consumption is another serious risk factor. If you have a history of oral human papillomavirus infections (HPV), you may also have a higher risk of developing oral cancer. 

5. What are the main types of oral cancer?

The majority of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous cells line your throat and mouth, and when squamous cells mutate, becoming abnormal, you develop squamous cell carcinoma. 

The most common locations for oral cancer include the throat, tongue, and gums, though oral cancer can occur anywhere in the oral cavity.  

6. How do doctors diagnose oral cancer?

In some instances, a physician or dentist may see signs of oral cancer during a checkup, but most of the time, you will likely feel symptoms that lead to the diagnosis. Diagnosing oral cancer can involve a physical exam, a biopsy, and imaging tests. Sometimes, you may also get a dental or blood exam. 

Learn More About Oral Health

Knowing as much about oral health as possible can help you maintain a healthy mouth. Payam Cohen, D.D.S., P.C. in Queens, NY, offers major procedural treatments, such as root canals, implants, and periodontal therapy. You can depend on us for any oral health concerns you may have. Call today to speak with an expert.

Categories: Dental Health