Q & A about Oral Cancer with Tom Cockerell, Jr., DDS

The month of April is designated as Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.  Here is a short interview with Tom Cockerell, Jr., DDS on basic need-to-know-information about oral cancer:

Q: What is the incidence of oral cancer?

A: There are approximately 35,000 new cases annually.

Q: What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

A: Oral cancer can appear as a white or red spot on the oral tissue which cannot be wiped away and may not be painful.  It is not associated with a sharp place on a tooth or denture that might cause a callous type of lesion.  Advanced oral cancer may have an associated lymphadenopathy.

Q: Are their any early warning signs to pay attention to?  

A: There may be no signs or symptoms until the disease has advanced.  Be aware of places in the oral cavity that do not match the surrounding tissue.  If there is a sore that doesn’t heal the area should be evaluated.  The cause of any abnormal lump or thickening  or bleeding in an oral tissue area should be learned.  Any numbness in the mouth should be evaluated. Trouble chewing or swallowing, a sore throat or feeling of something stuck in the throat should be evaluated. 

Q: Where does it usually develop?

A: Oral cancer can occur on all tissue in the mouth and throat. 

Q: What are the typical risk factors?

A: Main risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use especially in combination, however, approximately 25% of patients with oral cancer have no known risk factors.  Infection with the sexually transmitted HPV virus has been linked to oral cancer. Prolonged tanning has been linked to lip cancer.  Oral cancer is more common in men than women. 

Q: What is a preventative treatment against oral cancer?

A: Having an annual examination by the dentist. 

Q: What treatment is available for oral cancer?

A: Depending on the stage of the cancer the treatment options are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  Approximately 65% of patients treated will survive 5 years. 

For information on how to perform a self examination please go hereThank you to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial surgeons.

To learn more, also visit The Oral Cancer Foundation website.

Thank you to Dr. Cockerell for this interview.

Dr. Cockerell is a practicing dentist of 35+ years in Texas as well as the CEO/owner of Dental Symphony.


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