April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
What is Oral Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancers affect about 53,000 people every year, with 10,000 of those being deadly cases. Oral cancer can appear as a sore or bump in the mouth that does not heal over time. This can mean that oral cancer could form on the lips, tongue, throat, or anywhere in your mouth. It can cause severe damage to all surrounding tissue, and if left untreated, it can be life threatening. Studies show that men are at twice as much risk as women to get oral cancer. If you start showing symptoms of oral cancer, be sure to consult with your general oral health practitioner right away.
Symptoms can include:
● Persistent sores in the mouth
● Bleeding that does not go away after two weeks
● White patches in the mouth
● Numbness in the mouth, face, or neck
● Difficulty swallowing or chewing
● Ear soreness
● Substantial weight loss
● Dentures don’t seem to fit anymore
What are the risks of oral cancer?
Smoking is the leading risk factor in patients who develop oral cancer. Tobacco users who indulge in chewing tobacco products are also 50 times more likely to have cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips. Drinking alcohol excessively will also put you at risk of developing oral cancer. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are six times more likely to develop oral cancer over people who don’t drink. Lastly, exposure to the Human Papillomavirus, specifically strain 16, is a leading risk factor in developing oral cancer. Consult with your doctor on how to protect yourself from HPV. Just like most cancers, a family history and increased exposure to the sun will dramatically affect the likelihood of developing oral cancer.
How do you treat it?
If you experience any persistent symptoms, consult with a health professional immediately. Different types of oral cancers have different treatments, so it is important to consult a medical professional to determine what would be the right option for you. Only about 10% of people who develop oral cancer have no correlation to high risk factors, which means that there are steps you can take to try to prevent from developing oral cancer. Don’t smoke or drink excessively, and protect yourself from HPV. Call us today at (858) 485-5577 and consult with your San Diego orthodontist on how you can help fight oral cancer.