Oral cancer is something we all need to know about as over 56,000 North Americans will be diagnosed this year, and of those, nearly 11,000 will die because of it. The key is to catch it in its early stages and begin treatment immediately.
When we talk about oral cancer, we are including cancer of the soft tissues of the tongue, cheek, tonsils, soft palate, pharynx, lips, and salivary glands.
The most commons symptoms of oral cancer may include:
- swollen lumps or bumps inside the mouth and on the gums
- red or white patches in the mouth
- bleeding or numbness in any area of the mouth or neck
- sores that last longer than two weeks
- difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw
- ear pain
- persistent cough
- breathing problems
- voice changes (hoarseness usually)
- a change in how teeth fit together.
Like any other health concerns, changes in your mouth should not be ignored. If you’re experiencing anything out of the ordinary, contact us, your dentist in Battle Creek, for an oral cancer screening to investigate.
7 Known Causes Of Oral Cancer
There are several risk factors that can drastically increase your chances of oral cancer. They’re both physiological and habitual in nature.
- Weak Immune System – People with weak immune systems are at a higher risk of oral cancer. Your immune system may become weak after an organ transplant or if you suffer from autoimmune disease (e.g. multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, vitiligo, psoriasis, alopecia, etc.).
- Tobacco – Whether you smoke it or chew it, tobacco use increases the likelihood of developing oral cancer by six times.
- Diet – If your diet lacks fruits and veggies, you could be at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Try to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains which are all main sources of vitamins and fibre. Other preventative measures include consuming micronutrients like vitamins C and E, antioxidants, zinc, beta-carotene, and folate.
- Alcohol – The more alcohol you consume, the more your risk increases. Alcohol helps harmful chemicals enter the cells that line the mouth, throat, and esophagus. If you drink and smoke at the same time, your risk increases even more.
- Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) – This virus infects the cells at the base of the tongue and of the throat, and when it does, it introduces a greater risk of oral cancer development. Symptoms can be subtle and painless.
- Prior cancer survivor – If you have had cancer before, for a certain range of time, there is a greater chance of developing cancer again. Your general practitioner or cancer specialist will be able to provide more information to you based on your unique situation.
- Sun exposure – Sun exposure increases the risk of developing lip cancer. This is especially true for fair-skinned people or people who spend a lot of time outside on a daily basis – gardeners, golfers, construction workers, etc. When you do anticipate sun exposure, use sunscreen, wear a hat that shades your face, and apply (often) a lip balm with SPF.
Oral Cancer Statistics
- twice as high in men as in women
- eighth most common cancer among men
- average age of diagnosis is 62
- about 25% of cases occur in people younger than 55 (rare in children)
- 5-year survival rate is 65%
- when diagnosed early, 5-year survival rate is 84%
- if metastasized, 5-year survival rate is 39%.
Oral Cancer Screenings
At Battle Creek Family Dentistry, oral cancer checks are an important part of our treatment protocol. We want to help you achieve and sustain optimal oral health. Call us at 269-841-5049. We always welcome new patients!