April is oral cancer awareness month. While oral cancer is not one of the most well-known cancers, it’s important to understand just how serious it can be — and how common it is.
In this post, we’re going to cover important facts about oral cancer and what you can do to prevent and test for it.
Fast Facts About Oral Cancer
● Over 30,000 people in the United States alone receive an oral cancer diagnosis every year.
● Of the people who are diagnosed with oral cancer, four in 10 will not survive beyond five years.
● The high rate of death for oral cancer is due to the fact that it’s not easy to find and diagnose. Most oral cancers are discovered far into their development and spread throughout the body.
● There are many different types of oral cancer, including lip cancer and mouth cancer. Tumors may also be found on the jaw or the pharynx.
● 90% of all oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. This is a type of abnormal growth that occurs on the skin. This type of cancer also frequently occurs in the lungs; squamous lung cell carcinomas is almost always caused by smoking.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
● Heavy tobacco and alcohol use
● Human papillomavirus (HPV)
● Exposure to the sun
● Poor diet
● Family history of oral cancer
If you currently smoke, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer (as well as many other types of cancer).
HPV is one of the most common causes of oral cancer. People with HPV typically don’t experience symptoms until the virus develops into another form of an STD (i.e. genital warts).
Women can get tested for HPV while receiving a Pap test. Men should talk to a healthcare professional about getting tested for HPV while getting tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.
There is no treatment to cure HPV, but infections may go away on their own.
How to Recognize the Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Catching oral cancer early is the best way to increase your chances of surviving the disease.
If any of these symptoms persist longer than two weeks, it’s important to get them checked by an oral care professional:
● Red and white patches around the mouth or lips
● Soreness, irritation, or numbness around the mouth or lips
● Lumps or rough spots around the mouth, lips, neck, or throat area
● Difficulty chewing, wearing dentures, or swallowing
● Earaches that won’t go away
How to Get Checked for Oral Cancer
Of course, these symptoms may also be symptoms of other oral care problems. In order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s important to get checked by a healthcare professional.
If you have been to the dentist for a check-up in the past few months, you may have already received an oral cancer check without knowing it. As dentists are cleaning your teeth or assessing your jaw health, they are also looking for symptoms of oral cancer. They might just not be telling you.
Experts recommend that you visit a dentist twice a year for a cleaning and a check-up. If it’s been over six months since your last appointment, you could be putting yourself at risk for a late diagnosis of oral cancer or other conditions like periodontitis.
Do not make this mistake. It’s very important to keep your regular dental appointment to ensure your oral health (and your health overall) is in good shape.