By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell
It's important to notice mouth cancer symptoms as soon as they appear. The sooner any possible tumor is detected, the better the outlook. That means TREATMENT will be faster and less disruptive to your normal life, AND you will have a much better chance of a 100% cure.
If you notice something that looks odd or feels strange, DO NOT put off getting it checked by a dentist.
If you can pick up a cancer early, it will be quick to treat and give you the BEST possible chance of a successful result.
The problem is that EARLY mouth cancer symptoms are often hard to spot. Most people won't get any obvious early symptoms of oral cancer at all. But here is ONE GOLDEN RULE:
IF YOUR DENTIST TELLS YOU THERE'S A PROBLEM, DO WHAT HE SAYS. No exceptions. NO excuses. This sounds dramatic, but it's true; IF YOU WANT TO LIVE, get that odd thing checked, then do what your health professionals tell you!
The images below are shocking, but show what can happen if you ignore your dentist's advice. This lady had a sore, slightly swollen gum at the back of her mouth. The first photo shows what the dentist saw.
In the image above you can see a flap of gum by the last two molars. It looks a bit odd, but not too serious, right?
Unfortunately, for personal reasons, this lady did not take her dentist's advice to see a specialist. She did nothing for over 2 years. Then she turned up at her dentist's office again, in a much worse condition.
The tumor has grown extremely aggressively. Treatment options now are very limited.
DO NOT IGNORE any odd symptoms in your mouth!
The pictures above show a very extreme case, which is, thankfully, quite rare. BUT IT CAN HAPPEN. Most people will react if something is not right in their mouth, and they will get treatment much earlier.
You may get one or two of the following mouth cancer symptoms;
An ulcer, blister or sore spot in your mouth.
An ulcer or sore spot in your mouth or on your lip that doesn't heal can be one of the early mouth cancer symptoms. Sores that last longer than 10 days without healing should definitely be checked by a dentist.
The image above shows an aggressive tumor on the gum.
Mouth cancer is basically an overgrowth of some types of cells in the mouth. Mouth cancer includes any cancer that starts anywhere in the mouth, for example:
Types of mouth cancer
Nearly all mouth cancers are of the type "squamous cell carcinoma". These develop in the special cells that line the inside of your mouth. One of the real dangers of this type of cancer is that it can go unnoticed in its early stages.
It is frequently painless at first, and there's not much to see when it's small. However your dentist can see or feel the changes in the mouth tissues while the tumor is still very small, or in its earliest stages.
Read more about tongue cancer at cancer of the tongue
Causes of mouth cancer symptoms
Like all cancers, we don't know the precise cause of each tumor that develops. However we CAN say what factors seem to be involved in most cases:
Diagnosis of mouth cancer
You definitely get the best chance of a complete recovery if the tumor is diagnosed and treated early. If you visit your dentist for regular check-ups, he will probably be the first person to see something in your mouth that could be a tumor. He will refer you to the nearest hospital or oral medicine specialist for a definite diagnosis. If they agree with your dentist's concerns, a biopsy will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Of course, if you think you have any mouth cancer symptoms at any time, don't hesitate FOR ONE SECOND to phone your dentist and make an appointment as soon as you can.
Staging the cancer
If your biopsy confirms that you have a cancer, you will need to have some more tests to find out how far it has spread, and to help decide the best type of treatment. This process is called staging the cancer. The tests may include the following:
You can read more about the stages of cancer at Stage 3 Cancer.
Treatment of mouth cancer
Treatment depends on the type of mouth cancer, your mouth cancer symptoms, where it is and how far it has spread. There are three main treatments for mouth cancer. Your doctor will go over these options with you:
Prevention of mouth cancer
There are some simple things you can do to help reduce your risk of mouth cancer. These include:
Mouth cancer symptoms are hard to spot in the early stages. This is why it's important to have a look in your own mouth each week, and make a note of anything different.
If it hasn't settled down or healed within 10 days, go see your dentist. He will be able to spot the symptoms of oral cancer at an early stage, and arrange treatment. When it comes to mouth cancer, symptoms should be taken seriously!