Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Oral Cancer
Did you know that about 3% of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States are a form of oral cancer? This equates to about 53,000 new cases each year. Because your dentist regularly gets a close look at your mouth, they might be the first to spot the signs of oral cancer. This month, Prescott Dentistry would like to bring more awareness about this disease to our patients.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the mouth and the back of the throat. Oral cancers can develop just about anywhere in the mouth, on the tongue, gum tissue, hard palate, soft palate, pharynx, under the tongue, and the area at the back of the throat. Oral cancer can be life threatening if left untreated.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can help you understand whether that sore throat is just allergies or possible cancer developing. Knowing the causes can help you to make lifestyle changes to prevent oral cancer, and knowing the treatment can put your mind at ease if you are ever diagnosed.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is seen most often in adults over the age of 40. Oral cancer also affects over twice as many men as it does women. The majority of oral cancers are related to tobacco or alcohol use. In some cases, oral cancer can develop from infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV), especially HPV 16, which is transmitted sexually.
Heavy tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarette smoking, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, and snuff can be detrimental to your oral health and put you at risk for developing oral cancer. Heavy alcohol consumption, or a combination of tobacco use and alcohol consumption is also dangerous and can lead to the development of oral cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Signs of potential oral cancer include:
- A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
- A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
If you have any of the symptoms listed above lasting over two weeks, you should make an appointment with your doctor in order to be screened for oral cancer. Your doctor will also look into other causes for your symptoms, such as illness or infection.
Preventing Oral Cancer
Unfortunately, there is no proven way to definitively prevent oral cancer, but there are ways that you can lower your risk of developing oral cancer.
Avoid using tobacco, and quit using it if you already use it, don’t start using tobacco if you haven’t yet. Tobacco in any form, regardless of whether it is smoked or chewed, will expose your mouth to cancer-causing chemicals.
Alcohol use can make the cells in your mouth very vulnerable to mouth cancer, so if you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Doctors recommend limiting alcohol to one drink per day for healthy adult women, and up to two drinks per day for healthy adult men.
Visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist will routinely take x-rays of your mouth to make sure that no cancer is potentially brewing under the surface, and they will also inspect your mouth for any abnormalities that may indicate precancerous issues.
Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental appointments with us are your best defense against this disease. So while it may not seem like a big deal to miss a dental appointment every once in a while, keep in mind that your wellbeing could actually depend on it. Oral cancer prevention is just one of the many ways our holistic dentists at Prescott Dentistry can help you care for your overall health. Call us today to make an appointment.
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