In a recent 30-year study done by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the American Cancer Society, it was reported that overall cancer deaths in the U.S. were on the decline. However, this is not true for all types of cancer. While instances of some types of canworse than ever, with many oral cancer sufferers surviving less than 5 years post diagnosis. Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital recently reported that cancers affecting the tongue, tonsils, soft palate, and back of the throat have increased nearly 60 percent in the past 40 years for those 44 and younger. This distressing prognosis is proof that everyone throughout the country needs to get serious about taking steps necessary to prevent this disease. Following are the symptoms of oral cancer to watch out for, as well as vital proactive preventions that can be taken.
Warning signs of oral cancer
The symptoms of oral cancer include ear pain; swelling of the gums, lips, or inside of the mouth; chronic sore throat; difficulty speaking; hoarseness; changes in denture alignment; difficulty chewing; difficulty swallowing; white and/or red patches in the mouth; significant weight loss without effort; difficulty moving the tongue; difficulty moving the jaw; crusty spots in the mouth; lumps in the mouth; bleeding in the mouth that occurs for no apparent reason. These symptoms should be considered extremely serious, and anyone experiencing them should seek medical attention immediately. As with all forms of cancer, oral cancer needs to be detected at the earliest stage possible.
Steps you can take to prevent oral cancer
There are measures that can be taken to help prevent oral cancer. The following list includes some of the major risk factors as well as actions everyone can take to guard against developing oral cancer.
- Because smokers of cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, as well as users of smokeless tobacco products (chewing tobacco, snuff, dip) are at a much greater risk for developing oral cancer, quitting these behaviors is at the top of the list for preventing its onset. Statistics show that users of smokeless tobacco products are a staggering 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer, and cigarette, pipe, and cigar smokers are 6 times more likely.
- Because excessive drinkers are more likely to develop oral cancers than those who drink moderately or not at all, it is recommended that heavy drinkers decrease their alcohol consumption.
- Because recent studies show a connection between human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer, the CDC recommends that sexually active individuals use condoms for all sexual activity from start to finish and consider getting HPV vaccines. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports HPV as the fastest-growing risk factor in the development of oral cancer. The report states that nearly a fourth of all oral cancer cases in the U.S. occur in sexually active individuals who surprisingly use no tobacco products and who do not consume alcohol.
- Because not all oral cancer symptoms show up immediately, it is recommended that all those in high-risk groups have routine checks for signs of oral cancer, with careful attention paid to red and/or white lumps or lesions that could be pre-cancerous changes of the areas in and around the mouth.
- Because overexposure to the sun puts individuals, especially children, at higher risk for developing oral cancer, it is recommended that proper application of sunscreens be used during all outdoor activities, including on the lips.
- If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above warning signs of oral cancer, it is vital that you contact your family dentist or doctor immediately for examination. Oral cancer is a serious and life-threatening disease that can carry a poor prognosis, especially if it is not detected early. Early detection is often key to treating cancer. Everyone, especially those in high-risk groups, should perform routine self examinations of the mouth, looking for any of the symptoms noted above. An additional protection against oral cancer is scheduling routine visits to a family dentist, who can detect early warning signs of oral diseases. If you do not already see a top dentist, contact one in your area to schedule an appointment, especially if you are at greater risk of developing oral cancer.