Nobody wants to think about oral cancer, but approximately 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year, so it’s important that you are aware of the symptoms and risks of this awful disease.
What Does Oral Cancer Look Like?
Oral cancer is any cancer found in the mouth, including the floor of the mouth, the lips, tongue and the cheeks. Because symptoms of oral cancer are generally painless, it’s often not diagnosed in its early stages. However, when diagnosed early, survival rate is very high, so being aware of the potential for oral cancer and getting early detection are keys.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
- Bleeding in the mouth
- White or red patches on the lips or inside the mouth
- Bumps or lumps inside the mouth, as well as swelling, rough patches or areas of erosion both inside the mouth and on the lips
- Sores in the mouth that don’t go away within 2-3 weeks
- Any difficulties swallowing, speaking, chewing or moving your jaw or tongue
- Loss of feeling or numbness in the lips, mouth, neck or face
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Age, gender and smoking history are the top 3 causes of oral cancer, which occurs twice as often in men than in women, most often occurs in those over the age of 40, and is correlated with tobacco use, particularly smokeless (i.e., chewing) tobacco. Heavy drinkers also suffer a higher risk for oral cancer, as do those with a family history of it. Too much sun exposure contributes to oral cancer, as well. Interestingly, an HPV infection (human papillomavirus) also increases the risk for oral cancer.
How to Lower Your Risk of Developing Oral Cancer
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.
- Visit us for your twice-a-year examination, without fail.
- Schedule an appointment if you notice any of the symptoms above.
Oral cancer screening is quick and painless. Don’t hesitate to see us if you have any concerns about oral cancer, have a family history of it, or if you notice anything unusual happening in your mouth, lips, neck or face. Early detection can save your life.