Oral Cancer Awareness and Prevention
There are two types of oral cancer – those occurring in the oral cavity (the inside of your mouth) and those occurring in the oropharynx (the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue).
Early detection may result in better treatment outcomes and may help keep you or someone you love from becoming one of the 10,030 people whose lives may be claimed this year by the disease. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is approximately 60 percent.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
It’s important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms and to see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.
· A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
· Red or white patches
· Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
· A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
· Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
· A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
· Some people complain of a sore throat, feeling like something is caught in their throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in voice. If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more.
During your regular exam, your dentist will ask you about changes in your medical history and whether you’ve been having any new or unusual symptoms.
Then, your dentist will check your oral cavity. This includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, the front part of your tongue, the floor of your mouth and the roof of your mouth. Your dentist will also examine your throat (pharynx) at the soft part at the roof of your mouth, including your tonsils, the back section of your tongue and where your tongue attaches to the bottom of your mouth. The dentist will then feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or abnormalities.
What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?
The most important thing is to be aware of your risk factors. Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer as they get older. If you smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or have a poor diet, changing these habits can decrease the chances of developing oral cancer.
Certain strains of HPV can also put you at risk. The CDC recommends that 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls get two doses of HPV vaccine to prevent cervical and other less common genital cancers. It is possible that the HPV vaccine might also prevent head and neck cancers – since the vaccine prevents an initial infection with HPV types that can cause head and neck cancers – but the studies currently underway do not yet have sufficient data to say whether the HPV vaccine will prevent these cancers.
If you have had oral cancer before, you may be more likely to develop it again so keep up those regular visits.