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Posted on: November 21, 2022
Facts About Oral Cancer
Mouth Cancer Action Month in November is a campaign designed to raise awareness of the disease. Its aim is to save lives by encouraging prevention and early detection through regular screenings during dental exams. The cancer can occur anywhere in the oral cavity.
According to the American Cancer Society, overall, about one in 60 men will develop oral cancer in their lifetime. The rate for women is one in 140. The average age of people who develop oral cancer is 63. Almost all new cases are discovered in people over age 55, but it is possible to get oral cancer at any age. While oral cancer is extremely rare in children, it can occur.
Mouth Cancer Action Month check their mouth themselves between dental visits. It is easy and takes only a few minutes. You want to look for ulcers (sores) that have been in your mouth for over several weeks, lumps, bumps and discolored patches of skin. Look at your tongue, under and over, the roof of your mouth and feel your cheeks for any thickening. Also. look at your lips inside and out. If you notice anything abnormal, please contact our dentist in Gainesville.
The early signs of mouth cancer are very subtle. A monthly self check is no substitute for a regular screening by a dental professional during a routine exam.
What are the Signs of Mouth Cancer?
There are different signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Signs are things you can see in your mouth, like a sore, and symptoms are something you experience, like mouth pain. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- A sore in the mouth or on the lip that does not heal in a few weeks
- Reddish or white patches of skin inside the mouth
- A growth or lump in the mouth
- Unexplained mouth pain
- Unexplained mouth bleeding
- A persistent sore throat
- Changes in your voice
- Painful swallowing
Some of these symptoms can be explained by other medical conditions, but mention them to your dentist anyway. He or she may suggest you see a medical doctor to rule out other conditions if there are no signs of oral cancer present.
Call our dentist in Gainesville today to schedule an exam with a comprehensive screening.
What Causes Mouth Cancer?
Factors that can increase your chance of developing oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol use
- The human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Sun exposure can cause lip cancer
- A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- A compromised immune system
Tobacco use in the primary cause of oral cancer. Up to 80% of all cases are in smokers and people who use chewing tobacco. Excessive alcohol use combined with tobacco use is even more deadly. Alcohol can irritate the inside of your mouth, making it easier for the cancer=causing chemicals in tobacco to attack cells. /.
Tobacco use includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and vaping. Tobacco contains over 70 known carcinogens. Additionally, tobacco use can weaken your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight cancer.
It’s important to know that oral cancer can develop in anyone, regardless of the risk factors present. New studies are looking into things like drinking very hot liquids, smoking marijuana and using mouthwash with alcohol in it are also risk factors. Everyone should have regular screenings during their exam with a dentist in Gainesville.
How is Mouth Cancer Usually Diagnosed?
An oral cancer screening is only the first step in a diagnosis. Your dentist will perform a thorough screening of your oral cavity. If he or she notices anything abnormal, they may take a biopsy. This is sent to a lab to determine if the cells are precancerous, cancer or benign. There are also other ways to diagnose oral cancer, so your dentist may refer you to a specialist dentist or medical doctor for a diagnosis.
What are the Treatments for Oral Cancer?
Everyone receives a custom treatment plan. The plan, suggested by a team of multidisciplinary medical and dental professionals, depends on the cancer’s stage, where it is located, your age and general health and your personal preferences. You’ll learn about the risks and benefits of each option, so you can make an informed choice.
Typically, treatment starts with surgery to remove the cancer cells. This could either be major or minor surgery. Radiation and chemotherapy are also options. Some patients receive special drugs that target cancer cells. You may have any combination of these treatments. In addition, there are therapies, like speech therapy, used after treatment to help you deal with the side effects.
If you’re a smoker, it’s essential you quit during treatment. Any treatment you receive won’t be as effective. Also, continuing smoking increases the chance of the cancer returning. While very difficult, it is never too late to quit. Your treatment team can help you find an effective smoking cessation program.
Your team may include dentists, oral surgeons, ear, nose and throat doctors, oncologists and more. Usually, one person will coordinate your care and be available to answer your questions and help get you the emotional, financial and physical care you need to make the journey.
Can I Keep From Getting Oral Cancer?
There’s no proven way to ensure you never develop oral cancer, but there are many things you can do to greatly lower your risk. First, quit using all tobacco products. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for tips on quitting. Also, avoid using alcohol in excess. More than one drink a day for women, and two for men, is enough to increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Get the HPV vaccine.
If you’re outside during the day when the sun is at its hottest, wear lip balm with sunscreen. Also, wear lip balm with sunscreen when using a tanning bed.
Since individuals with no proven risk factors can still get oral cancer, it’s important to see your dentist for regular exams and screenings. Celebrate Mouth Cancer Action Month by making an appointment with our dentist in Gainesville today.