There are more than 450,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed worldwide every year, many of which are caught during an oral cancer screening performed at a routine dental checkup. However, some patients will have a better prognosis than others depending on what stage the cancer is in; the earlier it’s caught, the easier it is to successfully treat! Below is an outline of the different stages of oral cancer as well as some of the symptoms that a dentist might look for during your oral cancer screening in Ghana.
What are the Stages of Oral Cancer?
After a physical exam and biopsy have been performed, your doctor will explain what stage your cancer is currently in. The basic stages include:
- Stage 0: At this point, cancer isn’t actually present yet; there’s just a number of abnormal cells that could turn into cancer at some point. This stage is also known as carcinoma in situ.
- Stage 1: Cancer is present but is confined to a very small tumor no larger than 2 centimeters. At this point, it hasn’t reached the lymph nodes (clusters of cells that are part of the immune system).
- Stage 2: The tumor has grown to be between 2 and 4 centimeters large, but the lymph nodes are still unaffected.
- Stage 3: At this point, either the tumor has become more than 4 centimeters large, or the cancer has spread to a lymph node in your neck.
- Stage 4: This describes oral cancer that has spread to nearby tissue like the jawbone, at least one large nymph node or multiple smaller lymph nodes, and/or another part of the body like the lungs.
Oral cancer becomes more and more dangerous as it passes through the different stages, so an early diagnosis could be lifesaving.
What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The symptoms of oral cancer may be somewhat different depending on where it starts to form in the mouth and what stage it’s already in. Possible warning signs include:
- A sore on the lip or in your mouth that never heals
- An unusual mass forming inside the mouth
- Oral bleeding
- Teeth that have come loose
- Having trouble swallowing
- An unusual lump in the neck
- White and/or red patches in your mouth
- A sore throat
- Jaw, ear, or tongue pain
Many of these symptoms can point to other conditions as well. As such, your dentist in Ghana will refer you to a specialist to have a biopsy (and possibly other tests) performed. Once oral cancer has been identified, it can be treated via surgery, chemotherapy, or other means.
Keeping up with your dental checkups in Ghana won’t just help you protect your teeth from cavities; it could also give you your best chance of catching oral cancer before it reaches its most deadly stages. If it has been more than six months since your last visit to your dentist, make an appointment right away.
About the Practice
Here at Bethel Dental, our skilled dentists use their training and the latest technology to bring you high quality dental care. When you visit us for a preventive checkup, we’ll look for warning signs of oral cancer and other dangerous health issues so that you can act quickly to get the treatment you need. To schedule your next preventive appointment or to learn more about how oral cancer screenings work at our practice, visit our website.