For those who think that oral cancer only occurs in those who chew tobacco or smoke, think again. Many people don’t realize how common and serious oral cancer is; that’s because it can occur in any part of the mouth, including the tongue, inner cheek, tonsils, gums, lips and throat. More than 51,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Of those diagnosed, most will be men and nearly one in five cases will be fatal. Here are some signs and symptoms of oral cancer, seek medical attention immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
With any illness or disease, the signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, and oral cancer is no different. However, there are commonalities that could be a sign of oral cancer, including mouth sores, or a pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away. Some people may notice white, pink or red patches (or combinations of these colors) on the gums, tonsils, tongue, or the lining of the mouth. Other symptoms include swelling in your neck, one or multiple lumps in your cheek, trouble swallowing or chewing, feeling like something is stuck in your throat, difficulty talking or moving your jaw or tongue, weight loss and constant bad breath.
Causes and Risks of Oral Cancer
While researchers are not clear what causes oral cancers, there are factors known to increase risk of developing the disease. One blatant factor is tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, tobacco pipes, vaping and chewing tobacco. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can also increase your risk. Individuals that have been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) are also more at risk for developing oral cancer as are those with excessive, unprotected sun exposure on the lips. Individuals over 45, those who have been exposed to radiation, and those that already have another type of head and neck cancer also have an elevated risk of developing oral cancer.
Reduce Your Risk
Oral cancer is one of the most preventable type of cancers. The best way to prevent oral cancer is to reduce risky behaviors like tobacco use. You can also reduce your risk by avoiding excessive sun exposure and wearing broad-spectrum SPF lip protection, maintaining a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, reducing your alcohol intake, and practicing good oral hygiene – to include removing dentures every night and cleaning them thoroughly – and making sure those dentures don’t rub or fit improperly.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of mouth cancer is by undergoing screening during your regularly scheduled dental visits to ensure any sign of oral cancer is diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Note, however, that many times oral cancer presents no painful symptoms, only visible signs such as the patches mentioned above. When in doubt, see your dentist immediately.
When it comes to total oral health in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area, look no further than Dr. Steven Hagerman of Family & Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Hagerman has extensive experience and expertise to help you and your entire family achieve and maintain optimal oral and dental health to last a lifetime.
Are you ready to receive the highest quality in advanced, personalized dental care? Schedule an appointment or consultation by calling our office at (651) 646-2392 or requesting an appointment online. We are ready to give you a winning smile that you’ll love.