As with many cancers, oral cancer develops silently over time. It commonly develops in men more than women, and typically over the age of 40. Recent research however is showing that it is on the rise in women and younger patients. Cancer in the mouth can show up on the gums, palate, tongue, lips, or throat. Although it can be deadly, it is highly survivable when detected in the early stages. It should not be ignored as it can be even more lethal than cervical or skin cancer. Fortunately, your dentist can spot it easily during your annual checkup, and more cases have been diagnosed by dentists than doctors!
Signs to Be Aware Of:
A unusual lump in the neck
Losing weight for no reason
Bad breath that never improves
A mouth sore that lingers
Pain in your mouth that doesn’t leave
A lump or thickened cheek
Numbness of the tongue or somewhere else
Swelling in the jaw that makes your dentures hurt or fit poorly
Loosening of teeth
Pain in your jaw or teeth
Changes in your voice
A white or red patch on the gums, or lining of the mouth, tongue, or tonsil
A sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in the throat that doesn’t go away
Having a hard time swallowing or chewing
Having a hard time moving your jaw or tongue
Unusual bleeding in the mouth
So what are the risk factors for cancer in the mouth? Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes or even chewing tobacco or dip snuff puts you at risk. If you drink alcohol heavily this increases your risk. Obviously if you do both this puts you at higher risk. Lip cancer can be caused by over exposure to sunlight. Another recent increase in oral cancer has been linked to HPV-the human papillomavirus, as well as cervical cancer. And finally, poor dental hygiene practices and a poor diet may also increase your chances of oral cancer.
This year is a good year to improve your health habits and work to remain cancer-free. Many of these risk factors can be controlled, fortunately. Even minor changes can make all the difference. We hope this puts your mind at ease regarding this sensitive topic. If you do have questions or concerns, or would like to schedule a visit, please call us today at 661.588.2772.