November is Mouth Cancer Awareness month. And we want all of our patients to be aware of this oral disease, because it is a type of cancer that affects a great number of people. In fact, mouth cancer causes more deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or melanomas.
While it is a disease that can quickly escalate in severity, when caught early it can be successfully treated. That is why it is important for you to be aware of mouth cancer symptoms so that you can bring them to the attention of your dental team.
Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
During the beginning stages of mouth cancer, the symptoms may be harder to notice. This is what makes this particular type of cancer so much more dangerous. A person that has developed the cancer can make it to the later stages many times without realizing that they have developed it.
However, there are several symptoms that you may develop that can indicate that you may have signs of mouth cancer such as:
- Red, white, or dark patches in your cheek
- Lumps in the roof or floor of your mouth
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
- Change in color or texture of tongue
- Lumps in neck
- Ulcers that don’t heal within a few weeks
If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, it is important to call and make an appointment with your local dentist so they can address them immediately.
Risk Factors of Mouth Cancer
Mouth cancers form when cells on the lips or in the mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The mutations changes tell the cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die. These cells can form a tumor. Over time, the cells can spread within the mouth or even leave and move to other parts of the body.
While some people may just be genetically predisposed to develop certain disorders and diseases like mouth cancer, there are certain risk factors that may make you more likely to develop it.
These risk factors can include:
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Sun exposure
- A weakened immune system
Prevention of Mouth Cancer
While there is no proven way to prevent the development of mouth cancer, there are things you can do within your life to reduce your chances of developing it.
When you are using tobacco, you are increasing your risk of many health issues, including mouth cancer. Both smoking tobacco and chewing tobacco are bad for your health. However, if you are currently smoking, within 5-10 years of quitting, your chance of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, or voice box drops by half.
Reducing your alcohol consumption can also reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer. Alcohol use in excess irritates the cells in your mouth making them vulnerable to cancer.
And the biggest way in which you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer is to visit your dentist regularly for dental checkups. Your dental team can check for any precancerous or cancerous signs or symptoms. Remember that when found early, you have the best chances of recovery.
Schedule Your Annual Dental Checkup
The number of cases of mouth cancer has risen by 49% over the past 10 years. It is vital that patients understand the symptoms of this cancer so that we can spread the word this month and all year round so that we can reduce the number of people that have to suffer from mouth cancer.
If you find yourself with any suspected symptoms of mouth cancer, give us a call today to schedule an appointment, (903) 474-8206.