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The American Cancer society reports 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those, death is attributed to 7,000. The key to strong treatment is early diagnosis, which can be difficult, as oral cancer often begins asymptomatically. It then becomes a pathologic disease, as the infection multiplies and spreads throughout the body. For this reason, routine cancer prevention screenings, easily performed by Dr. Walton’s Columbus team, are crucial.

Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types, such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. Malignant squamous cell carcinoma is most common, usually originating in the lip and mouth tissues. Oral cancer can be found in a myriad of locations.

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Throat
  • Gums
  • Face

Why are screenings important?

Oral cancers develop as a result of a litany of causes, but 75 percent of those causes can be altered. They are based in habits, such as smoking, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Our office can provide educational information on accessible avenues to curve those behaviors and improve overall oral health.

There are several viable treatment options when the cancer is diagnosed as early as possible, which is why dentists and hygienists regularly explore the maxillofacial regions for abnormalities. There are several red flags that encourage further investigation.

  • Red patches and sores – These are normally found on the floor of the mouth or on the front or side of the tongue.
  • White or pink patches – Look for patches of this color that do not heal easily or readily bleed.
  • Leukoplakia – These hardened white or gray lesions are slightly raised. They can be found anywhere in the mouth.
  • Lumps – Defined by soreness and general thickening of the tissue in the throat or mouth, these can be cancerous.

Diagnosis and Treatment

With many of the initial symptoms being painless, the first round of diagnosis relies on visual observations and feel tests. If these strategies reveal signs of oral cancer, a diagnostic impression and treatment plan will be proposed. In the case of no improvement after the initial treatment,  the patient will be referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy of the troubled area..

Oral cancer is fully diagnosed when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken. Treatment methods vary according to the exact diagnosis, but could include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. To this end, the mouth and adjoining regions should be checked for changes biannually and an extensive oral cancer screening should be conducted at least once a year.

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