Oral Cancer Pasadena, TX

Oral cancer often appears in the mouth as a white, or red, spot or sore that is so small it goes unnoticed. Because many people do not realize they have oral cancer, a diagnosis may not be made until cancer has become more advanced, making treatment more difficult. Early detection of cancer and precancerous conditions increases the likelihood of a cure. Regular dental examinations are an invaluable part of early cancer detection and treatment.

Oral cancer can be caused or exacerbated by heavy alcohol and tobacco use, and sun exposure. It may appear on the lips, gums, inner cheeks or tongue, or on the hard or soft palate.

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Who is most at risk for developing oral cancer?

Many people think, wrongly, that if they don’t smoke or drink heavily that oral cancer isn’t something they need to worry about. Truth is 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who don’t smoke and who only drink occasionally. Over the past few years, we’ve found more and more of our oral cancer patients now are young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals that have the human papillomavirus (HPV). You may have heard of this virus in connection with cervical cancer, but it also greatly increases the risk of oral cancer.

What happens if you spot oral cancer early on?

The key to successfully treating oral cancer is early detection. That’s why Dr. Covell stresses the need to maintain the schedule of seeing us twice every year for your professional exams and cleanings. We can spot these cancers early and the success rate is dramatically higher. Look at these numbers involving five-year survival rates:

  • 83 percent for localized oral cancer than hasn’t spread. This would be stage 1 cancer.
  • 64 percent for oral cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Stage 3 cancer.
  • 38 percent for oral cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Stage 4 cancer.

Symptoms Of Oral Cancer

Symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • A change in color of any parts of the mouth
  • A lump, thickened tissue, rough spot, or crusted or eroded area
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together

How is surgery used for oral cancer treatment?

There are different methods where surgery is used for oral cancer treatment:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor — The tumor and a margin of healthy tissue surrounding it are removed with surgery. These procedures can be small if the cancer was caught early, or they may involve removing a portion of the jawbone or the tongue.
  • Surgery to remove cancer that has spread to the neck — If oral cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, or if the size of your cancer means it will likely do so, the lymph nodes and related tissue in the neck are removed. This is called a neck dissection.
  • Surgery to reconstruct the mouth — Surgery may be necessary to rebuild the mouth after the removal of large areas of cancerous tissue. This can involve transplant grafts of skin, muscle, or bone. Dental implants may be necessary to replace teeth.

What are the non-surgical treatment options for oral cancer?

There are different methods for treating oral cancer beyond surgery:

  • Radiation therapy — An oncologist aims radiation beams at the tumor once or twice a day, five days a week, for two to eight weeks.
  • Chemotherapy — This uses drugs that kill cancer cells. The medications are given to you orally or through an IV.
  • Targeted therapy — Targeted therapy drugs will bind to specific proteins on cancer cells and this interferes with the growth of those cells.
  • Immunotherapy — These newer treatments activate your body’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells.

How can I prevent oral cancer?

There are various things you can do to prevent oral cancer:

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Drink only in moderation.
  • Eat a healthy diet, especially rich in vegetables with vitamin A.
  • Limit your sun exposure and cover your lips and skin with sunscreen.
  • There is a link with the HPV virus and oral cancer, so some types of sexual contact can increase the risk of developing oral cancer.

How can Dr. Covell detect oral cancer early?

Oral cancer is not difficult to diagnose. It shows the symptoms listed above. When you come to see us for your twice-yearly cleanings and exams, that’s when Dr. Covell pulls on your tongue, checks throughout your mouth, press on your lymph nodes in your throat, and performs other diagnostic tests — he’s looking for any signs of oral cancer. We look for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the mouth, head, face, and neck. We look for sores or discolored tissue and inquire about any of the symptoms we list above.

Not to be repetitive, but early diagnosis is key to successfully spotting and treating oral cancer.


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