According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Sometimes called mouth cancer, this is a particularly dangerous form of the disease because it often goes unnoticed in its earliest stages. Are you familiar with the symptoms of oral cancer? How much do you know about this devastating disease? Do you know what you can do to lower your risk of developing it? Read on to find out.
What Is Oral Cancer?
When an uncontrollable growth of cells invades and damages surrounding tissue, cancer is often the diagnosis. Oral cancers include cancers of the lips, tongue, hard and soft palate, floor of the mouth, cheeks, sinuses, and throat. The majority of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, and they can be deadly if not caught and treated in time.
The Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer vary depending on the type of cancer and its location in the mouth. They include all of the following:
- A growth, lump, crusty spot, or thickening of the lips, gums, or other areas of the mouth
- A sore that bleeds and doesn’t heal within two weeks
- The formation of velvety patches that are white, red, or speckled in the mouth
- Unexplained loose teeth or bleeding
- Changes in the bite or the fit of dentures
- Difficulty or pain when chewing
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Pain or stiffness in the jaw, ear, sinuses, or tongue
- Unexplained numbness in the mouth, throat, or face
- A persistent sensation that something is caught in the throat
- A chronic sore throat
- Voice changes
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, don’t delay. Schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.
Protecting Yourself from Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can be lethal. As the Oral Cancer Foundation explains, the five-year survival rate for this cancer hovers at 57 percent. That means that just over half of the people diagnosed with mouth cancer will be alive in five years. How can you protect yourself from oral cancer?
At this point, most people know that smoking is more than a bad habit; it’s a danger to human health. The use of any kind of tobacco can put you at an increased risk of developing oral cancer. To safeguard your health, avoid cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco.
Drinkers are far more likely to find themselves battling oral cancer than nondrinkers, especially when they combine the habit with tobacco use. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation. Avoid binge drinking.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
Sun exposure is linked with an increased risk of lip cancer. When you venture out in situations that require sunscreen, remember to protect your lips with a lip balm that contains SPF.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Choose a nutritious and well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables support general wellness and may help to decrease your risk of oral cancer.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Getting regular dental checkups is perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from oral cancer. A checkup allows your dentist to screen for oral cancer. It also gives you the opportunity to point out any areas of concern and have them evaluated by an experienced professional. This increases the odds that, if cancer does develop, it will be caught early, when it is easier to treat successfully.
For most people, seeing a dentist every six months is recommended. However, individuals with certain health conditions can benefit from more frequent appointments, so it is best to ask your dentist how often you should visit.
Oral cancer is a serious, deadly disease. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from it, including watching out for the symptoms of oral cancer. To learn more about oral cancer screening or to schedule an appointment for your next checkup, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!