Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth. It can begin as a sore on your lips, your tongue, your gums, the inside of your cheeks, or the roof or floor of your mouth. Of course, often a sore is just a sore. You might have a canker sore, cold sore, or even an acne lesion, and you shouldn’t jump to conclusions right away. However, when a sore just won’t seem to heal on its own or begins to bleed, it’s time to see a doctor. Scroll down to learn more about the warnings signs and causes of oral cancer.
Causes of Oral Cancer
The American Cancer Society predicts that 51,540 Americans will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2018. Familiarize yourself and keep an eye out for these symptoms of oral cancer:
- A bleeding sore that won’t heal
- Tongue pain
- Loose teeth
- A sore throat
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- A growth in the lining of your mouth
- Thickening of skin in the lining of your mouth
- Pain and difficulty chewing or swallowing
- A change in how your dentures fit
It’s easy to write off any of the above symptoms as another health issue, like a cavity, gum disease, or even a common cold. But if you have one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor or dentist. A sore throat and tongue pain doesn’t necessarily mean you have oral cancer, but it could be a sign that something else isn’t right with your health.
Causes and Risk Factors
While it’s helpful to know the symptoms of oral cancer, the best way to treat oral cancer is to take preventative steps. Knowing the causes and risk factors associated with oral cancer and taking steps to avoid it can keep you healthy.
Like any type of cancer, mutations in DNA cause oral cancer. These mutations cause cancer cells to rapidly grow and divide, while healthy cells die. Cancerous cells accumulate and form a tumor. Over time, the cells can spread and form more tumors in different areas of the head, neck, and other parts of the body.
Although doctors aren’t sure what causes the mutations in the mouth cells, they have identified factors that increase your risk of developing oral cancer (source):
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Marijuana use
- Sun damage on your lips
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Gender (men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women)
- Poor diet/nutrition
- Poor oral hygiene
- Fair skin
- A weak immune system
Some of these risk factors, like gender and fair skin, obviously aren’t preventable. However, you can certainly avoid abusing alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. You can protect your fair skin and lips using sunscreen and chapstick with SPF. Make sure to protect yourself from HPV, and take care of your body by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.
Did you know that experienced dentists can help identify early signs of oral cancer? That’s why it’s always important to maintain open and honest communication with your dentist about lifestyle habits such as smoking.
If you live near Springfield, Missouri, visit Wilkinson Dental for a dental exam and oral evaluation. We will keep an eye out for signs of oral cancer and help educate you on the causes of oral cancer. We are committed to your comfort and proud to offer a relaxing office environment while providing the care you need for a happier, healthier smile. If you’re ready to set up an appointment or if you have questions you’d like to go over first, please give us a call at 417-708-0556 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!