Oral cancer is increasingly becoming a problem today. More and more people are getting it and oftentimes it is only discovered too late. About 20 percent of those who are diagnosed with it will die from it. Getting regular cancer screenings from your dentist could help save your life.

Some Statistics

About 50,000 new people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Because it appears in the head and neck, it will usually spread fast because of the many blood vessels in the area.

Detection of Mouth Cancer

The way that mouth cancer is most often spotted is through the dentist. Dentists have received training on recognizing cancer in the mouth and they can often conduct basic biopsies. They will often conduct a cancer screening when performing a regular teeth cleaning.

Cancer in the head and neck is often not detected in the early stages. This is because there is usually very little pain associated with it while in the early stages. It is often detected when the dentist feels the lymph nodes in the neck and finds them swollen. By this time, however, it is already in the advanced stages.

There are often many bumps, cuts, and other sores in the mouth. Many times a mouth cancer will start out looking like other normal sores. In order to be sure, a dentist can run an initial biopsy on a suspected lump or sore. If positive, the dentist will refer the patient to a cancer specialist.

Some cancers, such as esophageal cancer, can be difficult to detect. It is located down in the esophagus and may only be seen by looking at the esophagus – which requires a camera.


The symptoms of a mouth cancer may include:

  • Difficulty when swallowing
  • Pain in the tongue
  • A growth, lump, or thickening of the lining in the mouth
  • White or red patches
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A sore that bleeds
  • Dentures that have changed in how they fit.

The Risk Factors

You are at a greater risk of getting a mouth cancer if you:

  • Use tobacco of any kind.
  • Drink large amounts of alcohol.
  • Are outdoors a lot and your lips are exposed to the sun.
  • Have oral HPV.
  • Have a weakened immune system.

If you have some of these risk factors for mouth cancer, you especially need to have regular dental checkups. A dentist may not always perform a cancer screening, but if you ask them to they will do it as part of the cleaning.

When to See a Dentist

You should go for an oral exam if you have a sore in your mouth that has lasted for more than two weeks. Other symptoms may also be present.

If you would like to get an oral cancer screening along with a dental cleaning, you can get one at the NY Gentle Dental Care office of Dr. Rafael Lakhchakov in Richmond Hill in Queens. Just call (718) 262-0720 for more information or to set up an appointment.