Whether you're working toward prevention, worried about cancer and hoping for early diagnosis and intervention, or currently undergoing treatment, these are the most important things to know about oral cancer.
Where it's located
Cancer can develop in almost any part of the oral cavity, including your lips, tongue, the inside of your cheek, the floor of your mouth, the roof of your mouth, or the oropharynx.
What puts you at risk
You are at highest risk of developing oral cancer if you have a history of tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, or excessive exposure to the sun, or you have an HPV infection, a diet lacking fruits and vegetables, or a personal or family history of oral cancer.
How to prevent it
While there is no single measure you can take that will eliminate your risk of developing oral cancer, there are several things you can do to dramatically reduce your probability:
- Stop using tobacco as soon as possible. Visit with your doctor or call the NCI Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT to get the help you need.
- Use lip balm that contains sunscreen when you plan to be outside to protect your lips from the damaging properties of the sun.
- Limit your alcoholic intake to one drink a day or less.
- Ensure your diet includes a rich variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Signs and symptoms
So how do you know if you've developed mouth cancer? Routine dental visits (every six months) can detect mouth cancer in its earliest stages, but if you experience any of these signs or symptoms, you should schedule a focused evaluation with your dentist right away:
- A sore that doesn't heal
- Loose adult teeth
- Bleeding from your gums, lips, cheeks, or tongue
- Numbness or tingling
- Pain when chewing or swallowing
- Patches of discoloration inside your mouth (which can be red, white, or a mixture)
It's important to note that these symptoms usually indicate problems other than cancer, such as gum disease, but immediate evaluation from a dentist is critical.
How it's treated
If it is determined that you do, in fact, have mouth cancer, your dentist will recommend a course of treatment designed to address the specific kind of cancer you have, the stage it's in, and your overall health, including any other diagnoses you have. Treatment might include one or all of the following: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.
To request a routine cleaning and exam or a focused evaluation for signs and symptoms of cancer, visit Global Dental Group in Mission Viejo, CA, today.