April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month!

Nobody wants to hear the news of any type of cancer, much less if it’s happening to you. Oral cancer is something we should not dismiss. As stated in a previous blog, we stand by the importance of being mindful of this disease and detecting it early, is key. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we want to remind and recap on some facts about the what, who, and how’s of oral cancer.

What is Oral Cancer?Oral Cancer develops in the tissues of the mouth or throat. It belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. Most develop in the squamous cells found in your mouth, tongue, and lips. These are the signs of oral cancer:

  • Reddish or whitish patches in the mouth
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

If these last longer than a week, please see you doctor and they will recommend on oral specialist.

Who’s at Risk of Oral Cancer?Technically we are all at risk, but our lifestyle choices become a factor. Here are who are at risk:

  • Those who are 40 and older (95% of all oral cancer cases)
  • Those who are the age 18-39 who use tobacco, are heavy drinkers, or may have a previously diagnosed oral HPV infection.

How Can We Lower the Risk of Oral Cancer? Pre screening for oral cancer is part of your dental cleaning routine by your dentist. If you do not visit your dentist on regular basis, you could be missing out on early cancer detection! Here is a list of ways that can lower your risks:

  • Avoid all tobacco products
  • Avoid or reduce your consumption of alcohol
  • Consume more fruits and vegetables (good for everything, of course)
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure that can result in cancer of the lip (using lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 can be helpful)
  • Avoid exposure to environmental hazards (wood dust, formaldehyde, printing chemicals)
  • Conduct a self-exam monthly so you can catch any of the symptoms listed above. Use a small hand-held mirror so you can see the back of your mouth and tongue
  • Consider coffee. While the jury is still out, some research suggests coffee may help protect the mouth from oral cancer.

Oral cancer is a very serious business and it can be managed when caught early. So, it’s crucial to have those yearly dental check-ups, they may just save your life!