(NC) Oral and oropharyngeal cancers often go unnoticed in early stages because they can develop without pain or symptoms. If the cancer is detected early, and before it has spread to other tissues, the five-year survival rate is almost 90 per cent. Smoking, alcohol consumption, sun exposure to the lips, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are all known risk factors. By modifying our lifestyle choices and ensuring that our children receive the HPV vaccine, we can reduce the risks of illness.
Dental hygienists provide oral cancer screenings at each appointment, and can offer guidance for reducing risks and improving treatment outcomes. They remind us to watch for the following changes in our mouths between regular dental visits:
• Alterations to the colour or texture of gums, cheeks or tongue;• Mouth lumps or sores that do not heal within 14 days;
• Chronic sore throat or cough;
• Difficulty swallowing;
• Lumps in the neck (even those that aren't bothersome);
• Mouth or ear pain.
Most cancers of the mouth can be treated if caught in time. In order to reduce your risk, make healthy lifestyle choices and maintain regular dental hygiene appointments that include oral cancer screenings.
More information is available online at www.dentalhygienecanada.ca.