Nearly 50,000 Americans will be affected by oral cancer this year, and over 9,000 individuals die each year because of it. It’s most commonly found in people over the age of 50, but early discovery can improve the chances of successful treatment. As part of your regular dental visit, your dentist can check for signs of possible cancer spots.
You can also take an active role in finding oral cancer early by checking your lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, and the inside of your mouth for signs of the disease. If you notice anything strange, contact your dentist right away.
Your age is not the only thing that increases your risk of oral cancer. Not surprisingly, it’s more likely to affect people who use tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The combination of tobacco use and drinking a lot of alcohol increases your risk by 75%! Your chance of developing lip cancer rises when you’ve been out in the sun for too long without proper UV protection.
Knowing the risk factors and taking steps against oral cancer can limit its influence in your life. Take an active role in your oral health by:
- being aware of any changes in the tissues in your mouth;
- removing habits that can cause cancer, primarily tobacco and heavy alcohol use;
- visiting your dentist regularly for checkups.
Oral Cancer Warning Signs
Catching oral cancer early can greatly improve your chances for successful treatment. Here are some warning signs to look for:
- A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal.
- A color change of the oral tissues.
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, or crusted area.
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
- A change in the way that teeth fit together.