Oral Cancer: What You Need to Know

January 29, 2019

Dentist showing a women her x-ray resultsOral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is an often overlooked disease. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s rare. In fact, The American Cancer Association estimates that in the year 2019 alone, approximately 53,000 people will get oral cancer and 10,860 will die from it. It is also more than twice as common in men as in women.

Oral cancer shares many similarities to other cancers and is best treated when caught early. At Greeley Dental Health, we want to help protect our patients and inform them about this disease so they can recognize the symptoms and get treatment as soon as possible. Keep reading to find out what you need to know.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is caused by the same thing as all other cancers: cells growing uncontrollably. The main difference is that its source begins in these regions:

  • Floor of the mouth
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Inner lining of the cheeks
  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue

Oral Cancer Signs

Though the only way to know for sure whether you have oral cancer is to get diagnosed by a doctor, there are some signs you will want to watch out for:

  • Changes in speech, including a lisp
  • Ulcers that haven’t healed in over three weeks
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Unusual swelling, bumps or lumps in and around the mouth, neck, and head

How to Prevent Oral Cancer

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol don’t just affect your lungs and liver. These activities also increase your risk for oral cancer. If you haven’t quit smoking yet, there’s no better time than now. Drinking in moderation or abstaining altogether will also help to lower your risk. Second-hand smoke and poor diet are other contributors to consider.

The HPV vaccination, Gardasil, could help to prevent oral cancer, though it is unfortunately only available for females at this time. A gender-neutral vaccine is still being researched so here’s to hoping this becomes an option for men in the future.

Another important way to catch the signs early is to make sure you visit your dentist twice a year. They will be able to tell if anything is out of the ordinary and if additional testing is needed. Just another reason not to miss those checkups!