The very word “Cancer” can conjure fearful feelings and thoughts. It’s a scary prospect for any part of your body. Oral cancer is not discussed much, but it’s diagnosed in approximately 37,000 Americans every year. Sadly, just over one-half of those diagnosed will be alive five years later.
Oral cancer is highly curable if detected early but it can be a serious threat to your health – and one about which you should stay informed. For some people a trip to the dentist is also very frightening and this fear further complicates an early oral cancer diagnosis.
Keep these two things in mind:
• If caught early, oral cancer is highly treatable; its high death rate is primarily due to its late discovery.
• Twice yearly dental exams are vitally important in the early detection, prevention and treatment of oral cancer.
All cancers involve the growth of abnormal cells. Oral cancer’s abnormal cells can occur on any part of the gums, tongue, lips or mouth and also on the roof of the mouth and the lining of the cheeks. Most oral cancers begin in the soft lining of the lips or mouth, which is made up of thin squamous cells.
Some causes of oral cancer are:
• Tobacco use, in all forms…this accounts for 90% of all oral cancers
• Marijuana use
• Alcohol use
• Exposure to UV light from the sun or from tanning beds
• Having some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
• An irritation in your mouth or on your lip that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
• Red or white patches on your tongue or in your mouth
• A lump or thickening in your cheek or neck
• Persistent pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere on your lips or in your mouth
• Feeling like something is caught in your throat
• Difficulty swallowing, chewing, talking or moving your jaw or tongue
• A change in your voice that isn’t due to a cold or allergies
For the new year, resolve to take the first steps toward preventing oral cancer. Call to schedule an appointment and start 2016 off right: (951) 698-4426.