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What you need to know about Oral Cancer

First off I would like to start this blog with a quick description of what oral cancer is. Cancer refers to changes within the body’s cells that triggers them to grow out of control. The cells grow very rapidly and spread. Eventually they will crowd out the bodies normal cells and cause damage to the different systems of the body. 

Oral cancer can affect all parts of the mouth including tongue, lips, gums, hard or soft palate and cheeks. The most common signs of oral cancer would be a lesion in the mouth that bleeds and does not heal or pain or numbness that does not go away. More symptoms could include:

• A thickening of the cheek
• A red or white spot on the tongue, tonsil, gums or lining of the mouth
• A painful throat
• Trouble chewing, swallowing, communicating or moving the jaw or tongue
• Oral tissue color changes

Are you at risk for Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer will take the lives of 8,000 Americans this year and 37,000 will be diagnosed with it. This means one person will die every hour, 24 hours a day. This is why it is so important to see your dentist for your twice early checkups.

Oral cancer is twice as common in males then females. This is strictly because males are more likely to use alcohol and tobacco over long periods of time and in large quantities.

Oral cancer increases with age especially after 35. Of all patients with oral cancer 80% use tobacco. The risk increases with the amount of smoked or chewed tobacco during the habit. 70% of patients with oral cancer also drink alcohol regularly. The combination of the two (tobacco and alcohol) drastically increases a person’s risk.

Long amounts of exposure to the sun increase your risk also due to the long exposure of sun to the lips. Keeping a diet low in fruits and veggies is also associated with an increased risk of cancer development.

HPV (Human papilloma virus) infection has increased drastically over the last two decades. HPV could account for more cancers than alcohol or tobacco. On the other hand, the good news is that patients with HPV positive oral cancers have a much better survival rate then other cancers simply because their tumors have less genetic impairment. Thus, making it more responsive to treatment.

The bottom line is if you see or feel anything that does not feel normal within your oral cavity, see a dentist immediately! 

As always, we thank you for being part of our practice family!