Information and oral cancer screening services in Sonoma could save your life
It is unusual to go through a day without hearing about breast or lung cancer. Yet most people don’t give much thought to oral cancer, though consequences can be just as dire. At Whole Health Dentistry, Dr. Silvano Senn and Dr. Toni Mann, take their role in safeguarding the health of patients in the Sonoma area quite seriously. One of the ways they live up to this responsibility is with cancer screening services.
Understanding oral cancer
The human body contains trillions of cells. Normally, new ones form to replace those which are old or compromised. “Cancer” describes cells that divide abnormally at an accelerated rate. These cells become mutated as damaged ones survive and more are produced than needed. This proliferation of unhealthy cells may occur virtually anywhere in the body, sometimes presenting as solid tumors or soft tissue lesions.
When pieces of cancer cells break off, they may travel through the vascular or lymphatic system, fostering cancers in other areas. This characterizes a malignant cancer. Benign cancers do not invade surrounding tissues, but they can grow quite large, becoming disfiguring, uncomfortable, and impairing organ function.
Oral cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in any tissues that comprise the mouth. This type of cancer may occur on:
- Floor of oral cavity
- Front portion of the tongue
- Lining of cheeks
- Lips (exterior, or inside the mouth)
- Roof of mouth
- Salivary glands
While teeth themselves typically do not develop cancers, they are certainly affected. Lesions and tumors at the base of the tongue, throat, neck, or head are not classified as oral cancers, but are closely related.
Why is the treat so serious?
Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and more than one person dies per hour because of it. The good news is that the five-year survival rate has increased in recent years by seven percent. That is due, in large part, to improved awareness and detection methods.
Oral cancer is a silent threat for several reasons:
- It is not typically painful, especially in early stages. These small spots are easy to ignore, seeming more like annoyances than dangers.
- The appearance of mouth cancers often mimic other oral conditions. You may assume you have an insignificant ulcer, canker or cold sore, or mucocele.
- Oral cancers can be difficult to see. Most of us do not spend a lot of time in front of a mirror, inspecting every interior surface of the mouth. A lesion can be tucked out of sight in a fold of flesh or far back in the arch.
- A lesion or lump may remain static for a long time, leading you to believe it is nothing to worry about, then blossom suddenly – usually when your health takes a dip for some other reason.
What you can do to reduce risk of oral cancer
You have a great deal of influence over whether you get oral cancer, and the outcome if you do.
Use of tobacco and alcohol consumption are primary culprits. Smoking and smokeless tobacco causes cumulative damage to the DNA of cells in the mouth. Alcohol further breaks down the body’s defenses, so individuals who drink heavily and smoke have about a 15 times greater chance of developing oral cancer than those who do not. HPV16, a sexually-transmitted viral infection also increases risk of oral cancer. Stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, and practice safe sex to cut your risk of getting oral cancer.
Even if your lifestyle does not include those habits, you can still get an oral cancer. Anyone of any age – children included – can. Reduce risk with cancer screening services in Sonoma. Dr. Senn and Dr. Mann urge you to maintain regular dental checkups. These twice-a-year comprehensive examinations include oral cancer screening, with an added precaution.
Screening starts with visual evaluation and manual palpation of the face, mouth, neck, and head. Then the doctor uses VELscope. This device emits a harmless blue light that fluoresces abnormal cells, making them visible to the naked eye. With VELscope screening, potential oral cancers are detected much earlier. Prompt biopsy and treatment of an oral cancer means a smaller wound and dramatic improvement in long-term prognosis.
Please don’t wait – call 707 549-6333 to schedule your appointment at Whole Health Dentistry in Sebastopol, CA.