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What To Do After An Oral Cancer Diagnosis

Over 50,000 people are newly diagnosed with some form of oral cancer each year, be it throat cancer, tongue cancer, tonsil, mouth, oropharynx (back of mouth), or lip cancer.
And although the death rate for oral cancers has declined over the last few decades, yet, the overall oral cancer rate is actually increasing in recent years. The reason for this disparity in the statistics is that oral cancer screening is helping many more people who get oral cancer to catch and treat it earlier, greatly increasing their chances of beating it.

Stages Of Oral Cancer
Most oral cancers begin in the tissues lining the mouth and/or throat (squamous cells) and spread from there. The earlier any tumors, lumps, or abnormal formations are detected, the better. Your periodontist can do an initial exam and, if necessary, refer you to a cancer specialist for further testing.

If someone is diagnosed positive for oral cancer, first of all, a second opinion should be had to verify that diagnosis. But, given that oral cancer has begun, it is classified by the TNM staging system.

  • The T stands for the size of the tumor.
  • The N refers to whether or not the cancer has reached the lymph nodes.
  • And the M tells if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and caused tumors to develop there as well.

CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, endoscopy examination, and PET scans can all be used to determine which stage the cancer is at. Knowing the stage helps to direct treatment efforts and indicates how likely it is the cancer can be reversed.

It’s something no one wants to think about, but knowing the exact type, location, and stage of an oral (or any other) cancer only helps patients and family to be better informed so they will be better equipped to make important treatment decisions along the way.

What To Do Following The Diagnosis
You shouldn’t be afraid to see your periodontist for an oral exam and cancer screening. Most mouth sores and other suspected symptoms turn out to be benign. And knowing earlier, should they turn out to be cancerous, is only going to help in winning the battle.

Support of family and friends will be critical throughout – from the initial diagnosis to the biopsy report to the final diagnosis, and from beginning to end of treatment. Don’t try to “go it alone.” There are many resources and people available to help!

Eliminating possible causes or risk factors of oral cancer can help to prevent things from getting needlessly worse. Poor oral hygiene, smoking tobacco products, drinking alcohol excessively, and too much sun exposure (for lip cancer) are all major risk factors – but of course genetic predisposition also plays a role and many of the causes are still not understood.

Finally, be sure to keep all your doctor’s appointments and follow treatment plans scrupulously. Do plenty of research too, so you will be as informed as possible – knowing what’s going on generally makes most people feel better besides putting them in the best possible position to take positive steps.

If you have any symptoms you fear may indicate oral cancer or if you just want an annual screening, feel free to contact periodontist Dr. Raymond A. Kenzik. Dr. Kenzik’s office is based in Ormond Beach, FL, and serves surrounding communities in Volusia & Flagler Counties and beyond.

Located in Beautiful Ormond Beach

Ormond Beach Periodontics and Implant Dentistry is conveniently located off of Nova Road in Ormond Beach, Florida. We help seniors, adults, and teenagers smile with confidence.