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Oral Cancer Screenings in Hermitage: What They Are & Why You Should Partake

Oral Cancer Screenings in Hermitage: What They Are & Why You Should Partake

Oral Cancer Screenings in Hermitage: What They Are & Why You Should Partake
Dr. Jones
June 4, 2024

Oral cavity and pharynx cancers affect almost 12 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. It’s slightly higher in Tennessee. Around 13 out of every 100,000 residents have oral cancer. People don’t often know they have oral cancer. It’s easy to write it off as biting the inside of your cheek or having a canker sore. 

While a sore in your mouth can be nothing concerning, it can also be cancerous. The best way to identify oral cancer is by going for routine dental exams. Yet, many people do not realize this is one of many things that dentists do for people during an appointment. Dr. Jody Jones has tips to share regarding oral cancer, the importance of catching it early, and what to look for.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer

Oral cavity and pharynx cancer is a cancer, often squamous, that forms in the cells lining the oral cavity, larynx, and pharynx. This includes cancerous tissue found in any of these regions:

  • The area of gums behind the wisdom teeth
  • The floor of the mouth below the tongue
  • The gums
  • The lining inside the cheeks
  • The lips
  • The roof of the mouth
  • The throat from behind the nasal cavity down to the esophagus
  • The tongue
  • The uvula

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

During a dental visit, the hygienist or dentist uses a mirror to closely examine all of your mouth for lesions, bumps, discoloration, sores, and thickened areas of skin. You should be honest and mention anything that you’ve noticed, such as numbness in the mouth, sores that don’t heal, or pain in the lips or mouth.

An oral cancer screening doesn’t hurt. It takes just a few minutes to complete. After that, the hygienist will complete the cleaning, if that hasn’t happened, and any x-rays that are due will be completed, too. 

Why Should You Get Screened? Are Certain People High Risk?

Oral cancer is more common in men, but women are not immune. It can happen at any age, but it’s often found between the ages of 75 and 84. People who have had the Epstein-Barr virus have a higher risk. So do smokers and people who drink alcoholic beverages excessively. Lip cancer can be tied to excessive time tanning.

It’s important to diagnose cancerous lesions in the earliest stages. Cancers are staged from Stage 0 to Stage IV. Stage 0 is the best time to catch them, and by Stage IV, they’ve usually spread to other areas of the body through the blood, the Lymph system, or tissue., making it harder to fight them.

  • Stage 0 – Abnormal cells are found.
  • Stage I – Lesions are cancerous with a tumor no larger than 2 centimeters and deeper than 10 millimeters.
  • Stage II – The tumor is 2 to 4 centimeters and deeper than 5 millimeters.
  • Stage III – The tumor is over 4 centimeters and no deeper than 10 millimeters, plus it has spread to one lymph node.

Stage IV has three different stages including IVA, IVB, and IVC. 

  • IVA – The tumor is larger than 4 centimeters and deeper than 10 centimeters and has spread to a lymph node, the sinus, the jawbones, or the skin on the face.
  • IVB – The tumor on the lymph node exceeds 6 centimeters or 3 centimeters if it’s on the same side as the oral cancer. It could also have spread to multiple lymph nodes or into the muscles and bones.
  • IVC – The cancer has spread to the liver, lungs, or bones.

Oral cancers can return after treatment. If you’ve been diagnosed once, make sure you go in for frequent screenings with your doctor and Hermitage dentist.

How Are Oral Cancers Treated?

The treatment options depend on the stage. At a minimum, you’re facing surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.

Surgical removal of the tumor is a standard treatment. It might mean a wide local incision where the tumor, skin tissue, muscle, and bone are removed if needed. Neck dissection adds the removal of lymph nodes and neck tissue, 

Surgery is followed by radiation therapy. Chemotherapy, hyperthermia treatments, and hyper fractionated radiation therapy are other options. Your oncologist will cover the options and possible side effects.

Because oral cancer surgery can involve the mouth, throat, jawbone, and muscle, you’ll likely have a long recovery. Make sure you have the emotional support you need from family and friends, too.

Therapists, plastic surgeons, dietitians, and rehabilitation specialists are all doctors and medical professionals who form your care team. If you had jawbone surgery, you’ll also work with a cosmetic dentist for dental implants to restore your smile and teeth to chew with.

The side effects of these common cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy are:

  • Anemia
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Incontinence
  • Infections
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nerve problems
  • Pain
  • Skin and nail changes

The side effects are often temporary and can be eased with the help of medications prescribed by your doctor. Speak up if you’re uncomfortable and struggling to function from one day to the next.

Where to Get Screened in Hermitage

In 2021, Tennessee was 45th out of 50 states for the lowest ratio of people to dentists. At that time, six counties didn’t have a dentist, and 1,300 dentists said they planned to retire by 2031. It’s a nationwide issue, and it’s one that Tennessee has been addressing through the Healthy Smiles Initiative.

With measures to make dental care more accessible, there’s never been a better time to start working with a Hermitage dentist and start getting regular oral cancer screenings as part of a normal dental exam and cleaning. Do not let the fear of dentists or worries about the cost of dental care keep you from getting this essential health check.

Dr. Jody Jones is taking new patients and offering oral cancer screenings. Don’t put it off. Schedule a visit with Jody Jones DDS today. With online scheduling, you don’t have to wait on the phone to get through to a person. Click “Appointments” fill out the six blanks, and we’ll get back to you with your appointment time. If you’d rather call, we’re here for you.