What You Should Know About Oral Cancer


            Oral cancer afflicts more than 30,000 Americans each year. Of those, about 50% will die within five years. Oral cancer is very difficult to treat successfully in its intermediate and advanced stages. These circumstances obviate the need for prevention and early detection as prime components in the effective treatment of oral cancer.

           Although oral cancers can develop at many different places inside your mouth, your tongue is the most frequent site of occurrence with its lateral borders being the most common location of incidence. Oral cancers also can arise on your palate (roof of your mouth), under your tongue on the floor of your mouth, on your cheeks and on your gums. Men are more than twice as likely as women to suffer from oral cancer, black males suffer from the disease more than do white males and 90% of all oral cancers develop after the age of 45. Your lips, especially your lower lip, are at significant risk of developing oral cancer and this particularly true if your exposure to the sun is regularly protracted.


An example of an extremely early sign of oral cancer.  The earlier oral cancer is detected, the easier it is treated.

           Since alcohol abuse and tobacco use of any kind are the two most significant causes of oral cancer, prevention starts at home with behavior modification aimed at tobacco cessation and moderation of alcohol consumption. These behavioral changes can create quite complex and difficult side effects (mood swings, eating disorders etc.) so Dr. McArdle recommends that if you do attempt them, you do so with the help of your physician. If your occupation or lifestyle normally leads to extensive sun exposure, you should take extra precautions (using an adequate sun screen, wearing broad-brimmed hats) to minimize your risk. Some research suggests that if your diet is low in fiber (fresh fruits and vegetables), your overall chances of incurring any form of cancer, including oral cancer, are increased.


Leukoplakia, a precancerous condition often

caused by smoking, on the floor of the mouth.

           When observing your own mouth, there are certain signs to look for that may be indicative of oral cancer. Any color changes (e.g., dark red or light-colored patches) in the soft tissues of your lips and mouth that appear for no obvious reason and do not begin to resolve in a week or so require further evaluation. Sores that easily bleed, do not heal or both should make you suspicious. Persistent raised or lumpy areas that may be rough, thickened, crusty or eroded should concern you. If these areas are sore or feel numb, you ought to be even more suspicious. Any unremitting changes in your voice, speech patterns or ability to chew and swallow must be viewed with suspicion as well as should any changes in your bite. An unexplained mass in your neck, even if asymptomatic, demands further attention.


Much like the signs of a cancerous jaw tumor, the shifting of these teeth out of the bite

(white arrow) and out towards the cheek (red arrow) are a red flag situation.

            While it is prudent to scrutinize your mouth for any of the changes listed above, this is not a substitute for an annual cancer screening conducted by a licensed dentist. Every time Dr. McArdle performs a new patient or periodic oral examination for you, he completes such a screening. This is a necessity even if you have none of your natural teeth remaining. Dr. McArdle advises all of his denture patients to be seen at least once a year, even if they have no complaints about their oral condition, so he can provide this vital service for them. This is why Dr. McArdle is opposed to the practice of denturism, which is permitted in some states, wherein persons with scant training beyond that of a laboratory technician can fabricate dentures for patients who often then will not see a dentist for regular visits. If Dr. McArdle's exam should reveal any questionable findings in this regard, he will refer you to an oral surgeon whose specialized training in pathology and biopsy techniques will allow for the most comprehensive resolution of the matter.


An advanced cancerous lesion on the tongue.






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Dr. Barry F. McArdle, D.M.D. ~ 118 Maplewood Avenue, The Captain Moses House, Suite B-7, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Questions or Request an Appointment: Contact Us     Phone: 603-430-1010     Email: drmcardle@mcardledmd.com     Website: http://mcardledmd.com