Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) is the expert for diagnosing and surgically treating cancer of the head, neck and mouth.
It is estimated 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. Oral cancer’s mortality is particularly high, not because it is hard to detect or diagnose, but because the cancer is often discovered late in its development. Your family dentist or OMS is in the best position to detect oral cancer during your routine dental examinations.
Pathology is any deviation from a healthy, normal condition. Pathologies can mean a lot of different things from tumors or cysts. Tumors can be benign or malignant (cancer). It’s important to know that while oral cancer is an oral pathology, not all oral pathologies are classified as cancer. Classification depends upon where the pathology is – such as in the bone or soft tissue – and sometimes how quickly it appeared. A biopsy will help determine the nature of the condition.
Some of the signs and symptoms of many oral, head and neck pathologies can be detected early – when treatments are most effective. The symptoms include:
Other symptoms to watch for include chronic sore throat or hoarseness and difficulty swallowing or chewing.
While many of these pathologies can be benign, they can increase the risk of cancer if untreated. The presence of some leukoplakias can increase the risk of transforming into cancerous lesions. These lesions may need ongoing management.
While it might be alarming to find a lump or sore, know that it does not automatically indicate the presence of cancer. Your OMS can help diagnose your symptoms – often through a biopsy of the tissue – and determine your treatment plan.
Make it a regular routine to perform a self-exam each month. Using a bright light and a mirror, follow these steps:
Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. If you discover a suspicious lump, sore or lesion, promptly make an appointment for an examination.
Early detection and treatment may well be the key to complete recovery.
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