Oral cancer is projected to cause 8,000 deaths in the United States this year alone, killing approximately 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. The death rate for this type of cancer is notably high because it is often discovered in the later stages of development.
If you learn anything about oral cancer it should be that if it is detected early, it is highly treatable. Since early detection is so important, it only makes sense that you understand how to identify oral cancer symptoms. Mouth cancer includes cancer in any part of the oral cavity or oropharynx, including the mouth, gums and lips, as well the throat and the back of your mouth. It’s symptoms and warning signs may not be as obvious as you think, so educating yourself is critical.
Here are some common oral cancer warning signs:
- White, red, or mixed red and white spots (or patches) on your tongue, gums, or any other tissues in your mouth
- A sore or irritation in the mouth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Persistent tenderness, pain, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck
- A thick, rough, or crusty spot, or a small area in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, or moving your jaw or tongue.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
- A change in your voice that isn’t due to a cold or allergies
- An earache that doesn’t go away
- Numbness of the lower lip and chin
By conducting a self-check at home on a regular basis, you can potentially save your own life. If you experience any of the above symptoms, please address your concerns with your dentist. Park South Dentistry recommends an oral cancer screening on a yearly basis during one of your routine dental exams, but it is important that patients take note and promptly respond to any warning signs or abnormal changes in their lips, cheek, gums or throat.
In addition to being aware of the warning signs of oral cancer, you can also do your part in preventing it. Keep your mouth and body at optimal health. This includes seeing your dentist every six months, maintaining proper oral hygiene at home, eating a well-balanced diet and exercising. Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco products can also reduce your risk for mouth cancer.