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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Oral Cancer
The oral cancer symptoms are like other nonthreatening mouth issues. However if you become aware of any of the following signs or symptoms—particularly if you have more than one at any one time—you should schedule a visit with your doctor or dentist. Oral cancer symptoms include:
• Sore on the mouth or lip which will not heal
• Bleeding from your mouth
• Teeth that are loose
• Difficulty or painful swallowing
• Problems wearing dentures
• Lump in the neck
• Earache which will not go away
• Drastic loss in weight
• Face, lower lip, chin and neck numbness
• Red, white and red, or white patches inside the lips or mouth
Many patients exhibit no detectable symptoms in the early stages of oral cancer. Heavy drinkers and smokers should have routine checkups with their dentist, as a dentist has the ability to identify signs of oral cancer. When signs and symptoms appear, they usually involve:
• Patches upon the lining of your tongue or mouth, typically white and red or red in color
• Mouth ulcers which don’t go away
• Sore which doesn’t heal
• Swelling within the mouth which persists for more than 3 weeks
• Lump or skin thickening in mouth lining
• Pain while swallowing
• Teeth (tooth) loosening for no reason
• Dentures which do not fit properly
• Pain or stiffness in the jaw
• Sore throat
• Sensation that something is trapped in the throat
• Tongue that is painful
• Hoarse voice
• Pain in the neck which doesn’t go away
There are many other diseases and conditions which may have similar symptoms, however if you are suffering from any of these signs or symptoms you should see your dentist immediately.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer
The first thing your dentist or doctor is going to undertake is a medical and dental history, followed by an oral examination. This will include closely examining the floor of the mouth, the palate, back of the throat, cheeks, tongue, all of the gingiva around your teeth, and the lymph nodes in the neck. You doctor may also perform a physical examination. If your dentist or physician can’t determine why you’re having these symptoms, the possible next stage is to be referred to an ear, nose and throat expert (ENT), also known as an Otolaryngologist.
If any growths or tumors are discovered, your physician will either conduct a brush or a tissue biopsy. The brush biopsy is a painless test which gathers cells from your tumor by brushing them to a slide. The tissue biopsy will involve removing a piece of tissue in order for it to be evaluated for cancerous cells. Additionally, the physician may conduct one or more of the following tests:
• X-rays: To check if cancer cells have spread to the lungs, chest, or jaw.
• CT scan: Without or with dye. This scan is going to display any tumors inside the throat, mouth, lungs, neck, or elsewhere in the body.
• MRI: Is going to show if cancer has spread to other sites in the body.
• Endoscopy: A lighted, thin tube is inserted into the throat to assess the interior of the lungs, windpipe, and throat.
• PET scan: Your physician gives you a radioactive sugar injection. The PET scanner has the ability to check where the sugar is gathering. Cancer cells are going to take up or gather sugar quicker than regular cells.
To recap, a primary care physician, or general practitioner will ask you a list of questions regarding your symptoms and perform an oral and/or physical examination. If oral cancer is suspected, you’ll be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) or oncologist. An oncologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers.
Biopsy — Your physician might obtain a small tissue sample to check if there are any cancerous cells present. In many instances a patient is going to be under general anesthesia. In some cases, only local anesthesia is used, particularly if the biopsy is only taking a sample from the surface of the tissue.
Just as soon as the cancer is diagnosed your healthcare provider will want to determine what stage the cancer has reached. Tests to assist in staging might involve:
Endoscopy — your physician is going to pass an illuminated scope down your throat to check if the cancer has spread beyond your oral cavity.
Imaging test — these sets of tests might assist your physician in determining if the cancer has spread:
• Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
• MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans
• CT (computerized tomography) scans
Identifying and understanding the stage the cancer has reached offers a universally understood explanation of the progress of the tumor. It will assist in treatment planning, aid in determining the prognosis, and permit accurate end-result reporting.
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