Oral cancer is not something to be taken lightly. Every year in the Unites States alone, approximately 42,000 individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer, and the death rate for the disease is extremely high. While it is not possible to guarantee that you will never develop cancer, there are certain things that everyone can do – including knowing the risk factors, identifying early warning signs, and scheduling regular oral cancer examinations – to mitigate the risk of developing the life-threatening form of cancer.
Risk Factors For Oral Cancer
Some behavior may increase one’s risk of developing oral cancer. These include:
- Using Tobacco. Studies have shown that tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, is one of the leading causes of oral cancer today.
- Alcohol Consumption. Those who drink excessively (more than 15 alcoholic beverages per week) may be at greater risk for oral cancer and other types of cancer as well.
- Exposure to the Sun. Unprotected exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays are more likely to develop lip cancers than those who wear sunblock or stay in the shade.
- Low Intake of Fruits & Vegetables. Protective nutrients in natural, organic fruits and vegetables can help protect against cancer, while a lack of these foods can increase one’s risk of developing a dangerous disease.
- Using Betel Nuts & Bedis. When chewed or smoked, these can cause problems with one’s teeth and gums, and eventually, mouth cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Though it is often difficult for a person to detect cancer in its earliest stages, simply knowing the warning signs is one of the most effective ways to identify a potential problem before it becomes life-threatening. Some common cancer indicators include:
- Red and/or white discolorations of the soft tissue around the mouth
- Any sore which does not heal within 14 days
- Hoarseness lasting for a prolonged period of time
- A sensation that something is stuck in the throat
- Numbness in the mouth
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Ear pain which only occurs on one side of the head
- Difficulty swallowing
- A sore under the denture that does not heal
- A lump or thickening which develops in the mouth or neck
Oral Cancer Examination
Even if you don’t have any of the early or advanced symptoms of oral cancer, it’s best to schedule an oral cancer screening at least once a year. The screening only takes about 5 minutes, is painless, and provides peace of mind for you and your family. Here’s what to expect:
- If you have dentures or partials, you will be asked to remove them before the oral cancer screening.
- Your health care provider will inspect you face, neck, lips, and mouth for any signs of cancer, paying special attention to the area under your jaw and the side of your neck.
- He or she will the look at and feel the insides of your lips, cheeks, and tongue to check for possible signs of cancer, such as red and/or white patches, swelling (in the tongue), or abnormal texture.
- Using gauze, he or she will then gently pull your tongue to the side to check the base and underside of the tongue, the roof and floor of the mouth, and the back of the throat.
- One finger will be placed on the floor of your mouth and, with the other hand under your chin, he or she will gently press down to check for lumps or sensitivity.
No one likes to think about the possibility that they might have oral cancer, but it’s far better to take precautionary and/or preventative steps before an issue arises than to learn about a problem long after it’s become life-threatening. Don’t delay, schedule your oral cancer examination today.