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Posted on: November 21, 2022
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, is changes to the cells in the mouth. It can occur on the lips, the inner surface of the cheeks, tongue and the floor or roof of the mouth. If caught early, the prognosis is good, but often, oral cancer isn’t diagnosed until it is in its later stages. Oral Cancer Awareness Mouth, started by the Oral Health Foundation in 2009, hopes to ensure people get regular screenings during their dental exams, so a dentist can spot the early signs. The holiday also spreads awareness about the signs and the risk factors.
Celebrate Mouth Cancer Action Month by learning more about catching the disease early with regular dental exams with our dentist in Indiana that includes a screening. You can also join the campaign by learning how to check your mouth every month with a mirror and flashlight. You will look for asymmetrical abnormalities, like limps, sores or swelling. Pull back your lips and look under your tongue for any discoloration. Feel your cheeks from the inside and out. Note if any areas feel thicker than others. Some of these things could be the result of other issues, so check again in two weeks. If the problem persists, contact your dentist in Indiana and help keep your mouth healthy.
What are the Typical Signs of Mouth Cancer?
The signs and of oral cancer include:
- A sore in your mouth that persists beyond several weeks. This is the most common sign.
- Whitish or reddish patches of tissue
- A lump in the mouth or on the tongue
- Numbness in the lips or tongue
- Pain when swallowing
- Unexplained mouth pain
- A change in your voice
- A change in the way your dentures fit
- Loose teeth
Please call our dentist in Indiana if you notice any of these signs between dental exams. Your dentist can also determine if any of these signs are due to anything besides oral cancer. For example, loose teeth can be a sign of advanced gum disease.
What Causes Oral Cavity Cancer?
Risk factors include lifestyle choices and conditions that increase you chances of getting oral cancer. These include:
Tobacc0o use – Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco constitute the highest risk. The amount you consume and how long you’ve used it for play a major part. Combining alcohol use with tobacco use also increases the risk.
Excessive alcohol use – The more you drink, the greater the risk. Alcohol also makes the effects of tobacco worse, so the two together are even more of a risk factor than tobacco use alone.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Only certain HPV viruses are linked to oral cancer. It is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. Most strains of the virus do not cause cancer; only nine of the 200 strains cause cancer.
Poor diet – a diet low in carotenoids, found in fruits and vegetables, is also a risk factor.
Sun exposure – Excessive sun exposure, like what is found in people who work outside most of their lives, have an increased risk for developing lip cancer.
Stem cell transplants – Individuals who have stem cell transplants can develop GVHD, which can kill cells, including cells in the mouth.
Poorly fitting dentures – While not a proven risk factor, it’s thought that ill-fitting dentures can cause sores in the mouth that can increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
Betel Nuts – These are not really nuts, but seeds from a Betel palm tree. they have a mild stimulant effect, like coffee. While you may never have heard of them, anyone with a Southeast background may chew them without realizing the risk.
Increasingly, some individuals are developing oral cancer for no known reason. Researchers are looking at other factors we may not fully understand yet, like marijuana use, drinking very hot liquids and more.
Regular screenings are important for everyone. Call our dentist in Indiana for an exam and oral cancer screening now!
What is Diagnosing Oral Cancer Like?
If you come in between regular exams, your dentist will visually inspect your oral cavity and feel for lumps. This is what he or she will do during a routine screening. Your dentist will also ask you questions about your risk factors. If something abnormal is discovered, your dentist may do a brush biopsy and send it off to the lab. You may also receive a referral to a specialist dentist or doctor for other types of diagnostic tests. Find the right stage the cancer is in and if it has spread will affect your treatment options.
What is Oral Cancer Treatment?
Your team will develop a special treatment plan based on your unique needs. They will consider the stage the cancer is in, if it has spread, where the cancer exists and your overall health and ability to deal with any side effects from the treatment. Your personal preferences also matter.
Typical treatments may include medications, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. You may also receive other services designed to help you deal with the treatments or their side effects, like help to quit smoking, nutritional care and speech therapy.
How Can I Lower My Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
If you use tobacco in any form, stop. This is the most important thing you can do. According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, 90% of people with mouth cancer use tobacco. If you chew tobacco, your chances of developing oral cancer are 50% higher.
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Alcohol makes it easier for the cancer causing agents in tobacco to get inside the cells that line the mouth. It also inhibits the cells ability to repair their DNA.
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These things will also improve your overall health, too. Studies show a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin A can prevent a variety of cancers.
Having regular dental exams with oral cancer screenings is also vital. They may not prevent oral cancer, but at least the cancer can be caught early and is possibly curable. You should also examine your mouth once a month with a mirror and flashlight. Some of the early signs of oral cancer are very subtle, so self screenings cannot replace regular screening by dental professionals.
Call our dental office in Indiana to schedule your appointment today!