Knowing how to prevent oral cancer is just as important as being able to identify and understand the symptoms and warning signs of this deadly disease.
Oral cancer can occur either in the mouth or in the throat. And, while many cases are treatable, this type of cancer has quite a high fatality rate when compared with other, more common cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma and cervical cancer. The more that you know about prevention and symptoms, the sooner you’ll be able to seek help from an oral surgeon if you suspect that something is wrong—and the sooner you’ll be able to get treated.
Here’s what to know, including some quick tips for staying oral cancer free.
How Common is Oral Cancer?
Before we talk about warning signs and prevention, how common is oral cancer, really?
There are about 54,000 Americans diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer every single year, reports The Oral Cancer Foundations, and roughly 9,750 of these diagnoses result in death.
Common risk factors for oral cancer include current or past use of tobacco products, heavy alcohol consumption, extensive sun exposure, a weakened immune system, and a poor diet. Some individuals may also have a genetic predisposition to oral cancer, such as those with inherited conditions like Fanconi anemia.
If you have a family history of oral cancer, or if one or more of the risk factors above apply to you, it’s a good idea to let your dentist know so that they can keep you on a routine screening schedule.
The Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
Is oral cancer curable? Yes. But as you might expect, treatment is most effective if the cancer is caught early on, which highlights just how essential it is to recognize and address the signs of oral cancer as soon as they occur.
Some of the most common warning signs of oral cancer to be aware of include:
- A mass or growth in or near the mouth
- A lump near the neck
- A sore in or near in the mouth that won’t heal
- Numbness in or near the mouth, including the neck or chin
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- A sore throat or earache that won’t go away
- Stiffness or pain in the jaw
- Pain or difficulty when swallowing
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Tips on Preventing Oral Cancer
There is no surefire way to prevent oral cancer from occurring. What you can do, however, is follow smart prevention techniques, including regular and routine visits with your dental care team, as well as these other notable prevention steps:
Take good care of your mouth and teeth. Regular brushing and flossing is key to a healthy mouth. It will also help you monitor your oral health so that you can tell right away if something is amiss, such as loose teeth, a lingering sore, or suddenly bleeding gums.
Quit smoking. Kicking your cigarette habit to the curb is one of the best ways to prevent oral cancer. While you’re at it, stay away from secondhand smoke, which can also be dangerous to your health.
Eat a good diet. A lack of fruits and vegetables in your diet is a known risk factor for oral cancer. Make sure that you get plenty of balanced nutrition, including daily servings of these important foods.
Limit your alcohol intake. Oral cancer is just one of the many potential consequences of heavy alcohol consumption. Limit alcohol or skip it altogether, and reach out to a professional if you are having trouble doing so.
At St. Luke’s OMS, we’re as dedicated as you are to keeping your mouth oral cancer free. Make an appointment today at one of our locations in Bethlehem, Allentown, Stroudsburg, or Easton, and get the support that you need to maintain healthy teeth and gums both now and throughout your life.