In the United States, one person dies every hour from oral cancer. It is a cancer in which early detection is absolutely critical to survival rate. Oral cancer can affect any area of the mouth including the lips, gum tissues, cheek lining, tongue as well as the hard or soft palate.
Who Is Affected?
Mouth cancer can affect anyone, but there are some specific risk factors to take note of. Oral cancer most commonly affects people older than 50, but there has been an increase in cases of patients under 30. Also, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women. While age and gender provide some tendencies towards this type of cancer, lifestyle choices seem to have the strongest influence on who develops mouth cancer.
Lifestyle Choices That Increase Your Risk
Tobacco Products: Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes are a leading culprit to oral cancer. In fact, you are doubling your risk with every morning cigarette. Chewing tobacco is also included in this risk factor.
Drinking Alcohol: Moderation is key when it comes to consuming alcohol, which is also linked to oral cancer. Alcohol use is found in nearly one third of all mouth cancer patients, and if you use tobacco and consume alcohol, you are putting yourself at a 30 times greater risk for oral cancer!
Oral HPV: The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that has recently gotten a lot of attention as a leading cause of oral cancer.
Poor Diet: While filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, Vitamin C and calcium will lower your risk for mouth cancer, choosing a poor diet can increase your likelihood.
Excessive Sun Exposure: Are you applying sun protection to your lips? Chronic and/or excessive UV exposure to the sensitive skin of the lips can greatly influence your risk for lip cancer.
Know The Signs of Oral Cancer
Early detection of oral cancer increases the chances that a person will be alive 5 years after diagnosis, and the 5 year survival rate is 81%! Unfortunately, only 35% of oral cancer is detected at the earliest stage. Since early detection is critical to this type of cancer, it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of oral cancer. Contact your dentist right away if you notice the following:
- A sore that bleeds easily or doesn’t heal in two weeks
- A change in color of the oral tissues
- A lump, rough spot or crusted area
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- A change in the way teeth fit or dentures together
- Changes in your voice
- Tiny white or red spots
- Weight loss
Regular Dental Visits Are A Must
Not all oral cancer patients have visible signs or symptoms. Therefore, routine dental visits become even more important. At Park South Dentistry, we conduct oral cancer screenings as part of your regular dental exam. It is a painless and quick evaluation that can save your life!