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Dr. Na Xu
Healthy Smiles Family Dental

2601 25th St., Suite 400
Salem, OR 97302

P: (503) 385-1185
F: (503) 339-1981

Can You Recognize the Common Signs of Oral Cancer?

Posted on 5/26/2015 by Na Xu
A man receiving an oral cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 36,000 people will develop oral cancer this year, and this will lead to approximately 6850 deaths. Oral cancer can afflict any part of your mouth and oral cavity.

This includes the following areas:

•  Lips
•  Tissue inside the lips and cheeks
•  The tongue, including the front 2/3 and the back, which is part of the throat
•  Gums
•  The floor of the mouth, which is under the tongue
•  Roof of mouth

Some of the most common signs to watch for include:

•  A slow-to-heal sore
•  Any lump or thickening of the lining in the mouth
•  Loose teeth
•  Pain in the tongue
•  Pain and stiffness in the jaw
•  Painful chewing
•  A nagging feeling of something caught in the throat
•  Red or white patches in the mouth (see below for details)

Is it a Minor Problem or Something Serious?
One of the most common disorders in the mouth and gums is a simple canker sore. A canker sore will burn, sting or tingle. It looks a bit like an ulcer and usually is depressed in the middle. The middle of the sore will look gray, yellow or white, with red edges.
Canker sores hurt but they are not cancerous. A canker sore usually will get better on its own in two weeks. If the spot lasts more than two weeks, you should come see us.

Squamous Cells

The flat cells covering the tongue, mouth and lips are known as squamous cells. Most mouth cancers start here. If you see an odd-looking patch on your tongue, lining of the mouth or gums, this could be trouble. One sign of squamous cell carcinoma (cancer) is a white or red patch on any part of the oral cavity.

The most common type of patch has a white or grayish appearance, and is called leukoplakia. This patch may be caused by a rough tooth, broken crown or denture, or even tobacco. Also, if you chew the inside of your cheek, you could develop leukoplakia on the inside of your cheek. This is abnormal tissue, but it usually is benign, or harmless. These patches may be hard and rough and are hard to scrape off.

White and Red Patches in the mouth

If you see a mixture of red and white patches in the mouth, this is called erythroleukoplakia. It is an abnormal growth of cells that could become cancerous. If these patches last longer than 14 days, you should have them checked. It is possible to see these abnormal growths before you feel them; early stages of mouth cancer may be painless.

Bright Red Patches in the mouth

A bright red, velvety patch in the mouth is called erythroplakia, and is very often precancerous. In up to 90% of cases, these patches are cancerous. So, do not ever ignore one of these red patches in your mouth. Come in so that we can take a biopsy of the cells to see if they are cancerous.

Under the Tongue

Erythroplakia can be anywhere in the mouth, but is most common on the mouth floor under the tongue. It also can be on the gums or behind the rear teeth. You should use a magnifying mirror with a bright light to check your mouth monthly for any unusual patches. Pull your tongue out gently and look underneath it. Also inspect the insides of cheeks, sides of the tongue and inside of lips.

Be aware of the above signs so that you can avoid getting any type of oral cancer. As with many cancers, catching this problem early can be very important, so be sure to keep a close eye on your oral health each month.

Please call us today for your oral cancer screening! Call (503) 967-0033.

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