Oral Cancer Screenings & Prevention in Colorado Springs
Oral cancer has roughly 35,000 new cases annually in the United States making it one of the more common cancers. Majority of the cases are people over the age of 50 years, with men being twice as likely as women to develop the disease. The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth and soft palate tissues in back of the tongue, lips and gums. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery and even death.
Dr. Guerra will screen during routine checkups. He will check for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks and oral cavity and thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. A biopsy of the lesion is required to confirm the diagnosis. Surgery is required to remove the tumors, which may cause disfiguration. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used as part of the treatment.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Scientists aren’t sure of the exact cause of oral cancer. However, the carcinogens in tobacco products and alcohol, as well as excessive exposure to the sun, have been found to increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Research also suggests that some forms of oral cancer may be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
What are the Warning Signs of Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is detected by red, white or discolored lesions, patches or lumps in or around the mouth, which are painless. As the malignant cancer spreads and destroys healthy oral tissue, the lesions or lumps become more painful. Routine dental exams are recommended as an effective way to screen.
See Dr. Guerra immediately if you observe:
- Any sore that persists longer than two weeks
- A swelling, growth or lump anywhere in or about the mouth or neck
- White or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
- Repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat
- Difficulty swallowing or persistent hoarseness
How Can I Prevent Oral Cancer?
You can help prevent oral cancer by not smoking. Also do not use spit tobacco or drink excessive alcohol. Though 20-25% of people who develop oral cancer are not exposed to risk factors, the risk of oral cancer is 15 times higher in those who both smoke and drink compared to non-users of tobacco and alcohol products. Research suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may safeguard against oral cancer. Because successful treatment and rehabilitation are dependent on early detection, it is extremely important to regularly check your mouth for changes in appearance and see Dr. Guerra for an oral cancer screening and regular checkup at least every six months. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated.
While the statistics on oral cancer are discouraging, when the disease is found and treated in the early stages it has an 80 to 90% cure rate. Like other forms of cancer, oral cancer is most successfully treated when detected and treated as early as possible. If caught in its latest stages, the chances of survival past the one year point are significantly diminished. Because we genuinely care about your health and your future, Dr. Guerra uses the VELScope on all new patient exams, and our standard of care involves one VELScope screening per year on a cleaning visit. Early detection literally saves lives!