Cancer of the mouth can happen to anyone, anytime, like most cancers. Typically it happens in twice as many men than women, and usually it is found in men over forty. Recent studies show that it is rising in women and lowering in age. While oral cancer can be deadly, it is also highly treatable, especially if it is detected early on. It can be more even more lethal than having cervical or skin cancer. Thankfully, it can easily be found when visiting the dentist and in fact, more cases are diagnosed by dentists than doctors. It can develop anywhere in the mouth, including the gums, roof of the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat.
The most common treatment for oral cancer is surgery, depending on the size of the and stage, and where it is located. Treatments include curing the cancer (hence, surgery), controlling the cancer with treatment to make it progress less rapidly, and easing symptoms.
Signs that you might have cancer:
Numbness of the tongue or somewhere else in the mouth
Swelling in the jaw that makes your dentures hurt or fit poorly
Loosening of teeth
Pain in the teeth or jaw
Changes in your voice
A lump in the neck
Losing weight for no apparent reason
Bad breath that never improves
A mouth sore that doesn’t go away
Pain in your mouth that lingers
A lump or thickened area in the cheek
A white or red patch on the gums, or the lining of the mouth, tongue, or tonsil
A sore throat or feeling that something is in the throat
Having a hard time swallowing or chewing
Having a hard time moving your jaw or tongue
Unusual bleeding in the mouth
What puts you at risk for oral cancer? Your habits come into play most of all. If you are a heavy drinker, chew tobacco, or smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars, you are vulnerable. If you do both, you are at higher risk. If you love to sunbathe, overexposure to the sun rays is a big factor in lip cancer. Oral cancer is also on the rise for women with the HPV-human papillomavirus. Poor diet and poor dental hygiene habits can also result in mouth cancer.
So what can you do? Make 2016 the year you stop smoking! Moderate your alcohol intake and eat a healthy, balanced diet. You can get vaccinated to prevent HPV, and wear sun block on your lips as well as your body. Finally, take the time to care for your teeth and gums on a daily basis, and see your dentist twice a year, ideally, for checkups and cleanings. Remember, early treatment is crucial to a successful outcome.
If it is time for your next checkup, feel free to give us a call at 864-642-4630. We are also here if you have any questions or concerns. Have a safe and happy 2016!