With May designated as National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we thought it might be a good idea to talk for a moment about how to detect the early signs of skin or oral cancer.
Skin cancers appear on the skin’s surface and are often tied to sun overexposure. Oral cancers affect the mouth, gums, tongue, and back of the throat. Dr. Hadley’s team is trained in how to detect the early signs of both of these diseases. Both diseases are primarily treatable but it’s important to catch these illnesses early before they progress into something more serious.
This article will look at these two different but equally dangerous types of cancers and help you know what to look for to help spot these diseases before they become a more serious problem.
The Facts About Oral Cancer
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that oral cancers occur in three percent of the American population every year. These cancers most often occur in people ages 40 and up. Men are affected twice as often as women. The disease seems to appear primarily tied to tobacco or alcohol use or infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Oral cancer includes cancer of the lip, which is tied to sun exposure. Too, diet plays a strong role in cancer development. A diet missing crucial fruits and vegetables has been correlated with cancer.
Skin cancer occurs in one in five people in the United States. While most skin cancers are non-malignant, malignant melanoma kills one person every hour in this country.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body exposed to sunlight. While family history can contribute to the frequency of the disease, it is primarily caused by overexposure to the sun. Most skin cancers are highly treatable if detected early.
Skin cancer is also preventable; experts suggest that enjoying the sun in moderation is generally a good idea.
What to Look For
These cancers often start with a lump, bump, or discoloration in tissue. Specifically, talk with us during your oral exam if you’ve noticed any of the following:
- Open sores inside the mouth or on the skin that aren’t healing properly.
- White or red patches in the mouth.
- A mole or skin lesion that changes color or texture.
- Soreness in your mouth, throat, or gums.
- A “lump in the throat” feeling.
- Problems chewing or swallowing.
- Any skin or mouth numbness.
- Ear pain not associated with hearing loss.
Dental hygienists and dentists play an important role in screening for these diseases. The exam is completely painless and only takes a few seconds as part of your regular preventative dental care. During the exam, we will check your head, neck, face, lips, and entire mouth for any signs that something isn’t right.
While Dr. Hadley’s team regularly screens for both of these types of diseases, it’s important that you take the time to schedule twice-yearly preventative checkups in order to help us maintain your health. Contact us – we’re here to help.