What Are the First Signs of Oral Cancer?

Mouth cancer – or oral cancer – is in a category of cancers called head and neck cancers. Oral cancer occurs when an abnormal growth of tissue or tumour forms within the oral cavity. The development of cancerous cells is extremely harmful, so it is crucial to maintain your oral hygiene and visit a dental hygienist regularly.

At Peak Dental Arts, our North Vancouver dentists offer comprehensive dental care, including emergency dentistry, and oral health and care preventive dentistry. We will check for signs and symptoms of mouth cancer by performing an oral cancer screening during your next visit.


Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of oral cancer are detectable in and around the mouth, from the lining of the lips to the back of the throat. These signs or symptoms can include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Tumours and sores on the lips or mouth
  • Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • Lumps inside the mouth
  • A sore or lumpy throat
  • Red or white patches inside the mouth, tongue or gums
  • Mouth and ear pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Changes in speech and hoarseness of voice
  • Weight loss
  • Constant coughing
  • Persistent bad breath

If you have any of these symptoms, and they’ve lasted for weeks or months, contact your North Vancouver emergency dentist to perform or recommend a biopsy. A biopsy is required to diagnose oral cancer and begin a treatment plan if necessary.


How to Diagnose Oral Cancer

Many symptoms of oral cancer are similar to infections and the common cold; however, it is important not to take the signs lightly or automatically consider them benign. Mouth cancer should be diagnosed as early as possible, when the most treatment options are available. The following procedures can diagnose oral cancer:


An incisional or an exfoliate cytology biopsy can be performed to diagnose mouth cancer. During this procedure, a sample size of body tissue is taken from the affected area and examined under a microscope.


A specialist doctor can perform an endoscopy to get a better visualization of the nose, mouth and throat, using an endoscope to detect any abnormal growth.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests can help detect abnormalities in the throat, mouth and neck. These consist of CT scans, X-rays, MRI scans and PET scans.


This in-depth medical procedure uses a panendoscope to check your upper airway, including your mouth, nose and voice box, for cancerous cells.


Types of Oral Cancer

Understanding the different types of oral cancer is crucial for early detection and successful treatment. They include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Verrucous carcinoma
  • Minor salivary gland carcinoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Sarcoma


What Causes Mouth Cancers?

The exact cause of mouth cancer is still unknown; however, some factors can increase your risk. Heavy consumption of alcohol, a weakened immune system, regular smoking or chewing of tobacco, a family history of mouth cancer, poor oral hygiene or gum disease, increased sun exposure and sexually transmitted infections such as HPV or EBV are all risk factors. 

People over the age of 50 with have unhealthy diets also have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, and men are more at risk than women. Being aware of these risk factors can help safeguard your health. 


Available Treatments

Mouth cancer cells can become painful and significantly affect your life. Thankfully, several treatment options are available – namely surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Your treatment options depend on a number of factors, such as the stage of your cancer, its location and the strength of your immune system.


How to Prevent Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancer is a serious and potentially deadly disease if not detected early. A conscious decision must be made to mitigate the risk factors. The following lifestyle changes can help improve your oral health and overall well-being and reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer:

  • Avoiding or limiting your consumption of alcohol and tobacco
  • Implementing a good oral hygiene regime
  • Wear sunscreen on your lips, face and body
  • Getting vaccinated against HPV and EBV
  • Visiting your dental clinic for regular check-ups or oral screenings


Your North Vancouver Dental Clinic

Are you looking for a state-of-the-art dental clinic specializing in general, cosmetic and oral health dentistry? At Peak Dental Arts, our skilled team of dentists and hygienists is ready to provide you with comprehensive and inclusive dental care. We focus on our patient’s needs and provide quality treatment plans to improve your oral health. 


Call us at 604-770-2222 or fill out our online contact form to book a dental appointment or oral screening.