Oral Cancer Awareness

Like other forms of cancer, the more you know about oral cancer, the better you can protect yourself.

Despite not often making the news, oral cancer is a big deal. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, doctors will diagnose an estimated 54,000 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States in 2022. 0ver 20 percent of those cases will contribute to the patient’s death.

Where Does Oral Cancer Show Up?

Oral cancer affects the mouths and lips of patients. Some of the most common cancers appear on:

  • The tongue. Medical professionals classify cancer on the frontal portion of the tongue as oral cancer and the posterior portion of the tongue as throat cancer.
  • The floor of the mouth. Patients often dismiss this type of oral cancer as canker sores.
  • The gums. This type of cancer may appear to be gingivitis, but it is more serious.
  • The inner cheeks. Dentists call this cancer buccal mucosa cancer. I

The lips. Two different types of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, can affect the lips.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

Recognizing the signs of oral cancer isn’t always easy. Most early symptoms mimic other common and mild oral conditions such as canker (fever) sores and gingivitis or are not directly visible. However, if you experience any of the following indicators, you should speak with your medical professional as soon as possible.

  • White, red, or dark patches anywhere in your mouth or on your lips.
  • Gums that are overly cracked, overly sensitive, or constantly bleeding.
  • New lumps or swelling, especially on the inner cheeks, the floor of the mouth, or tongue.
  • Numbness in the mouth or jaw.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Pain in the mouth, side of the face, or ear

What Are the Risk Factors?

Men are much more likely to develop oral cancer than women, as well as those who are over 50 years old. Even race plays a part. Black and Hispanic men tend to have a higher rate of oral cancer than those in other ethnic groups. Besides demographics, a person’s lifestyle and behavioral choices are major contributing factors.

Some of the riskiest behavior when it comes to developing oral cancer include:

  • The use of tobacco products. All tobacco use can contribute to oral cancer, but different products are more likely to cause various types of oral cancer. Tobacco products that come in direct contact with a person’s skin, such as dip, snus, and chewing tobacco, are more likely to cause cancer affecting the gums and cheeks, while pipe smokers see an increase in lip cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates the mouth, leaving it more vulnerable to oral cancers, especially when combined with smoking or other tobacco use.
  • Having a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection. An HPV infection can cause various cancers, including those occurring in and around the mouth. Over the last few years, an increasing number of people with HPV infections, but no other risk factors, have been getting oral cancer.
  • Poor nutrition. Patients who are overweight or have a diet lacking adequate fresh fruits and vegetables may have a higher chance of developing oral cancer.

Talk With Your Dentist

The best way to catch oral cancer early is to visit your dentist regularly. If you notice any signs of oral cancer or haven’t seen your dentist recently, make an appointment today.