May is Melanoma Awareness month! Melanoma is a malignant neoplasm of melanocytes. The incidence of melanoma of the skin has increased over the years. It is important to be informed of the causes and symptoms for early detection and treatment. Though melanoma of the oral mucosa is rare, everyone should be knowledgeable and be able to detect unusual lesions and other symptoms of this potentially fatal disease.
Symptoms of Melanoma Oral Cancer Include:
- A Colored Patch (Red, White, Blue, Black)
- An Ulcer or Canker Sore
- A Thickened or Swollen Patch
- Numbness and/or Pain
- Difficulty Swallowing or Moving the Tongue
- Sudden Tooth Loosening
If oral lesions with these characteristics present in the clinical differential diagnosis, a biopsy would be needed. If the lesion is flat and not thickened, a biopsy may still be indicated if it has atypical color, borders, or size. Treatment for oral cancer is complete surgical excision with the most important prognostic factors being the thickness and depth of the lesion.
Factors that increase the risk of developing melanoma oral cancer include:
- UV Sunlight Exposure
- Fair Skin
- Light Hair
- Male Gender
- Older Age
- Family History
- Poor Diets
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption
But having a risk factor, or even many risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may have few or no known risk factors.
Read more about risk factors on Cancer.org
If you have any noticeable changes in your gum tissues or lips that have been present for more than 2 weeks, visit your dentist immediately. Early detection is crucial and can have a great impact on the extent of treatment and outcome. Contact Westchase Premier Dental for your next dental exam and cleaning at (813) 475 – 4528. Our friendly staff is ready to help!