Each year, oral cancers affect 40,000 to 50,000 Americans, according to the American Cancer Society.  About 9,000 deaths annually occur due to oral cancers. In most dental practices, an oral cancer screening in included in each dental examination. How can you know if you are at risk for this type of cancer?

Risk Factors:

  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy Alcohol use
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Males are more likely than females to develop oral cancers, though the reason is unclear. The age group at highest risk is 41-60, though it can affect nearly any age person. It is rare in children.

There are some symptoms of oral cancer that can be detected at home. If you notice any of the following symptoms, bring them to the attention of your dentist right away.


  • A sore spot in the mouth that does not heal within a few days
  • A sore with white patches that is not a canker sore
  • Lumps anywhere in the mouth
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Difficulty chewing and/or swallowing
  • Loose teeth
  • Lump in neck

The most common site for symptoms is on or under the tongue. Photos of different oral cancers may be found at Healthline.

If your dentist finds an area in your mouth that is suspicious, he may take a tissue sample for a biopsy or may refer you to a specialist, such as an oncologist. If an oral cancer diagnosis is confirmed, medical treatment is required to maintain your health. Treatment of oral cancer will depend upon the stage of the cancer. Traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy may be recommended.

The prognosis for most oral cancer patients is good, especially when it is found in its early stages. However, continuing to smoke or use other tobacco products increases your chances for a recurrence.

When caught and treated early, most patients go on to live long, healthy lives. Like most cancers, oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body and become more serious if not treated. At Colson Dental Group, Dr. Colson takes each patient’s health seriously and welcomes you to share any concerns you have about oral cancer. If you are in Raleigh or the Triangle area, please call his office today for an appointment at 919-231-6053 .