ORAL CANCER: What You Need to Know
Oral cancer is one of the most deadly cancers because it often goes untreated. This lack of reaction often comes not because oral cancer symptoms are hard to diagnose, but rather because symptoms that can often be ignored or dismissed by the patient. Too often oral cancer goes undiagnosed until it has already metastasized to another location or even spread throughout the body, and at that point the prognosis at this stage of discovery is much worse than if discovered in a localized intra-oral area.
Who is at Risk?
If you are over 40 and swish mouthwash with alcohol every day, use tobacco, consume alcohol heavily, or experience long-term exposure to the sun, you are at the highest risk of developing oral cancer. Additionally, oral cancer has also appeared in young people with no contributing lifestyle factors. Research has also revealed that contracting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), particularly version 16, is conclusively linked to an increase in oral cancer in youth.
Symptoms to Look Out For:
- A mouth sore that does not heal
- A white and/or red patch of tissue inside your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- A lump or mass in your mouth or neck
- Hoarseness that lasts for a long period
- Pain or numbness in your oral/facial region
- Pain in the ear of long duration
- A change in your voice
- Unexplained bleeding in your mouth
- Loose or painful teeth
- A denture that no longer fits well.
- Pain or difficulty moving your tongue and/or jaw
How can You Reduce Your Risk?
Recognize if you have any of the above mentioned contributing lifestyle factors that may increase your risk (mouthwash, tobacco, alcohol, sun or unsafe sex) and be aware of their contribution to your systemic health, reducing use and risk where possible. Additionally, (you guessed it) practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly. If you are concerned, do not hesitate to request a comprehensive oral cancer screening from your Dentist at least once/year. At all Platinum Dental Care offices, our staff perform a comprehensive oral cancer screening in every appointment. Until your appointment, you may conduct a self-exam using a mouth mirror (available at most pharmacies) at least 3-4 times/year. Finally, increase your consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables and get regular exercise.
Reducing your risk for oral cancer is easy to do, and recognizing symptoms early is important for cancer survival. Luckily, when diagnosed early, oral cancer can be treated successfully nearly 100% of the time. Please use these suggestions to reduce your own risk and the risk of those around you, and keep an eye out for early signs. If you have any doubt, do not hesitate to visit Platinum Dental Care office near you as soon as possible.