April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Venture SDCC oral cancer 1

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Oral Health

Oral cancer is a severe disease that affects thousands of people each year. It affects the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. It can occur in anyone but is most commonly seen in people who smoke or chew tobacco. Early detection is critical to the successful treatment of oral cancer. Symptoms may include:

  • Mouth sores or ulcers that don’t heal.
  • Red or white patches inside the mouth.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
  • Changes in speech.

The risk factors for oral cancer also include excessive alcohol consumption and exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). Prevention measures like quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and practicing safe sex to reduce HPV transmission can help lower the risk of developing oral cancer.

Regular dental check-ups are also important, as your dentist will be able to identify any signs of abnormal tissue growth early on. If you experience any symptoms related to mouth cancer or notice any unusual changes in your mouth region, reach out to Shelby Dental Care Center immediately. 

What Causes Oral Cancer?

While the exact cause of oral cancer is unknown, several risk factors may increase your chances of developing this disease. It’s essential to be aware of these risks and take preventative measures to reduce your chances of developing oral cancer. Risk factors include: 

  • Tobacco Use-  Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes can significantly increase your risk for oral cancer, and use smokeless tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption- Drinking in excess can damage the cells in your mouth and throat, making it easier for cancer to develop. Poor nutrition and a weakened immune system can also increase the risk of oral cancer.
  • Infection from Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Radiation exposure from medical treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Genetics

Early Warning Signs

Oral cancer is severe and often deadly, but catching it early can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment. That’s why awareness of the early warning signs of oral cancer is essential. The most common symptom is a sore or lesion in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a few weeks. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing or chewing, persistent hoarseness or changes in voice, numbness or tingling in the mouth or lips, and unexplained weight loss.

If you have any of these symptoms, you must see your dentist or doctor immediately. They will perform an exam and may order tests such as a biopsy to determine if further treatment is needed. Remember that early detection is critical for mouth cancer, so don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you have concerns about your oral health.

Diagnosis & Treatment

A mouth cancer diagnosis is typically made through a physical exam of the mouth, throat, and neck. Your healthcare provider will look for sores or discolored areas in your mouth and feel for lumps or abnormalities in your neck. If any suspicious areas are found, a biopsy may be taken to determine if cancer cells are present. Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may also be used to determine the extent of cancer.

Treatment options for oral cancer depend on the stage and location of cancer. Surgery may be necessary to remove tumors or affected tissue. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and can be used alone or in combination with surgery. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells but can have adverse side effects such as hair loss and nausea. Immunotherapy is a newer treatment option that boosts your body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells.

Early detection is crucial in successfully treating mouth cancer, so you must see your dentist regularly for oral exams and report any changes in your mouth or throat to your healthcare provider immediately.

Prevention & Awareness 

Oral cancer is a serious health concern affecting thousands of individuals yearly. One of the best ways to prevent oral cancer is to know its causes and how to avoid it. Prevention starts with education and awareness. Maintaining good oral health habits such as brushing teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist regularly for check-ups is crucial. Avoiding smoking or using tobacco products can significantly reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer. Additionally, limiting alcohol intake and practicing safe sex can help reduce exposure to HPV.

Routine screening by a dental professional can detect abnormalities in the mouth before they develop into something more serious. Symptoms such as sores or lumps in the mouth that do not heal after two weeks should be checked by a dentist or doctor immediately. 

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