Posts for tag: Oral Cancer


Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.

As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.

Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.

Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.

Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome.┬áIf you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”

By Dr. David L. Carlson
November 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   Oral Cancer   tobacco  

Chewing tobacco is as much a part of our sports culture as the national anthem. What once began as an early 20th Century baseball player method for keeping their mouths moist on dusty fields has evolved into a virtual rite of passage for many young athletes.

But the persona of “cool” surrounding smokeless tobacco hides numerous health threats — including disfigurement and death. What isn’t as widely recognized is the degree to which chewing tobacco can adversely affect your teeth, mouth and gums.

Need more reasons to quit? Here are 4 oral health reasons why you should spit out smokeless tobacco for good.

Bad breath and teeth staining. Chewing tobacco is a prime cause of bad breath; it can also stain your teeth, leaving your smile dull and dingy, as well as unattractive from the unsightly bits of tobacco between your teeth. While these may seem like superficial reasons for quitting, a less-than-attractive smile can also have an impact on your self-confidence and adversely affect your social relationships.

The effects of nicotine. Nicotine, the active ingredient in all tobacco, absorbs into your oral tissues and causes a reduction in blood flow to them. This reduced blood flow inhibits the delivery of antibodies to areas of infection in your mouth. This can cause…

Greater susceptibility to dental disease. Tooth decay and gum disease both originate primarily from bacterial plaque that builds up on tooth surfaces (the result of poor oral hygiene). The use of any form of tobacco, but particularly smokeless, dramatically increases your risk of developing these diseases and can make treatment more difficult.

Higher risk of oral cancer. Besides nicotine, scientists have found more than 30 chemicals in tobacco known to cause cancer. While oral cancer constitutes only a small portion of all types of cancer, the occurrence is especially high among smokeless tobacco users. And because oral cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, it has a poor survival rate compared with other cancers — only 58% after five years.

The good news is, you or someone you love can quit this dangerous habit — and we can help. Make an appointment today to learn how to send your chewing tobacco habit to the showers.

If you would like more information on the effects of chewing tobacco on general and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chewing Tobacco.”

By Dr. David L. Carlson & Dr. Diana Brawka
October 20, 2014
Category: Oral Screenings
Tags: Oral Cancer  

The Importance of Screenings

Catching oral cancer right away will increase the chances of successful treatment and survival.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. Sadly, the death rate for oral cancers is actually higher than other cancers that are more often publicized. Oral cancer often appears on the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth, inside of the cheek or near the tonsils. Some of oral cancer’s most common symptoms include,
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue or tissue
  • A sore throat that won’t go away
  • A lump in the mouth or throat, or on the lips
  • Jaw swelling
  • Pain and difficulty chewing or swallowing

What are some risk factors for oral cancer?

Tobacco and heavy alcohol use are the main risk factors. More specifically, chewing tobacco and snuff are the two biggest culprits for cancer of the gums, lips and cheek. Men are also more at risk for oral cancer than women, and it’s often found in those over the age of 45. Poor nutrition, immunosuppressive drugs and HPV infections are also some other oral cancer risk factors.

So when should you visit our Wheaton dental practice for an oral cancer screening? 

Everyone should come in for a screening at least once a year. This is especially important for those who smoke or drink heavily. It’s important to have an annual oral cancer screening, as it’s the best way to catch it in its earliest stage when treatment is more successful and the prognosis is better.

What can you expect during your oral cancer screening?

This is a fairly simple and straightforward checkup that only takes about 10 minutes. We will examine your nose, mouth and throat; then we will check the skin around the neck and head, and feel for any lumps.

What if you find an abnormal sore?

Take a deep breath. You’ll be happy to know that most abnormal mouth sores are noncancerous; however, if we do find one, further testing will be recommended and you will most likely come back for a follow-up visit a few weeks later. We may even perform a biopsy so we can take a tissue sample of the sore to test for cancer and other causes.
If you’ve noticed any unusual or abnormal sores or bumps in your mouth, be sure to call our Wheaton dental office right away so we can get you a much-needed appointment. The sooner we can determine the root cause of your mouth issues, the sooner we can treat you and get you back to good health.