This blog is in Honor of April being oral cancer awareness month! Approximately 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, with 8,000 passing away annually. Oral cancer refers to cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. With oral cancer being life threatening when not diagnosed and treated early, it is alarming that the early symptoms are painless and frequently unnoticeable.
Some noticeable symptoms include:
- Ear and mouth pain
- Loose teeth
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Weight Loss
- Unexplained bleeding, pain, numbness of the face mouth or neck
- A Sore, lump or growth on the face, mouth, or neck
- White or Reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Swelling of the jaw
There are several risk factors that can increase the chance of getting oral cancer:
- Family condition of cancer
- Tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Weak immune system
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Stop or do not start using tobacco: Using tobacco exposes the cells in your mouth to cancer-causing chemicals.
- Limit alcohol use to a moderate amount: Hate to say it as much as I am sure you hate to hear it! But this means limiting to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Alcohol dehydrates the cell wall, enhancing the ability of tobacco carcinogens to permeate mouth tissues. Heavy drinking can lower your body’s natural ability to use nutrients and antioxidants to prevent the development of cancer.
- Protect your lips from sun exposure: You should be using a Lip balm with a spf of 30 or higher.
- See your dentist for an annual checkup exam: As part of your regular exam, your dentist will check your mouth for any signs of mouth cancer such as sores or lumps.
- Eat many fruits and vegetables: They contain vitamins and antioxidants which aids in strengthening your immune system.
Treatments for Oral Cancer may be one or more of the following:
- Targeted Drug Therapy
Prosthetics may be used to replace any areas of the mouth that were affected by surgery.
Make sure to visit the dentist regularly so they can check your mouth for any abnormalities or sores! An oral health screening should be performed at every hygiene appointment. During the screening, your dentist or dental hygienist will scan your mouth using a small mirror and flashlight. They will be looking for any signs of dental disease, cavities, gingivitis, possible abscesses, or any other sign that something may be wrong. Early on detection is key to handling and treating mouth cancer.