Word of Mouth: Oral cancer: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Cancer can affect any part of your body, and the mouth is no exception.  While oral cancer can be caused by damaging behaviors such as the use of tobacco or alcohol, it can still occur without explanation.  Oral cancer is much more prevalent than believed, and this unfortunately means that it’s often not diagnosed until the cancer has advanced; survival rates are much higher when oral cancer is discovered at earlier stages.  Screenings and regular dental visits are at the frontline of detecting and combating oral cancer.


Oral cancer can be anywhere on the outside or inside of your mouth, tongue, gums, or throat.  It can appear as bumps, swelling, lumps, or sores around or inside the mouth.  Oral cancer can also appear as velvety patches of white and/or red in or on your mouth.  You might suffer from pain or numbness, bleeding, soreness, the feeling of something caught in your throat or even experience difficulty with normal functions like eating or speaking.  Experts recommend you perform oral exams at home on a monthly basis.


Just as a doctor performs a cursory exam for signs of other cancers, so your dentist should check for oral cancer during routine visits.  If your dentist notices suspicious tissue, then he or she will order a biopsy.  An oral brush biopsy is a pain-free procedure that takes a small amount of tissue for analyzing, where a scalpel biopsy is a more involved procedure that might be performed by a specialist and may require local anesthesia.


If oral cancer is discovered, the treatment is very similar to that for most other forms of cancer.  First, surgery generally removes the cancerous tissue.  Then, depending upon the recommendation of your doctors, rounds of chemotherapy and/or radiation will likely follow to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

This column is sponsored by Midtown Dental.



BIO: Dr. William Nerestant, DDS received his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Detroit/Mercy School of Dentistry in Michigan.  After serving and being recognized for his meritorious service in the Air Force as an officer in the Dental Corps, he currently serves patients at Midtown Dental in Lakeland.  For more information, visit www.mymidtowndental.com.


Accessibility Toolbar