November is Mouth Cancer Action Month. Over 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, resulting in the death of one person an hour each and every day. While many people aren’t familiar with the warning signs of mouth cancer, having a month dedicated to awareness is trying to change that. Here is all you need to know about the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
Early detection is key in surviving a mouth cancer diagnosis. Knowing what to look out for, along with visiting your dentist a couple of times a year, will help you do all you can to keep an eye out for this type of cancer. Here are the common signs you should watch out for:
- Sore mouth ulcers that don’t heal within a few weeks
- Unexplained lumps in the mouth that won’t go away
- Lumps in the lymph glands and neck that don’t go away
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Changes in your voice and problems with speech
- Unintentional weight loss
- Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
- Teeth that become loose for no obvious reason
- Difficulty moving your jaw
- Red or white patches on the lining of your mouth (though these are common and not always a sign of cancer)
Risks of Mouth Cancer
There are varying factors that might determine your risk of developing mouth cancer. Though most of these do not directly cause cancer, they do put people at higher risk. Cancer.net explains that the risk of mouth cancer is greatly increased dependent on two factors:
- Tobacco use – which includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and more, is the single largest risk factor for developing head or neck cancer. In fact, 85% of head and neck cancer patients are linked to tobacco use.
- Alcohol use – not just an occasional drink, but heavy, frequent consumption can increase our risk of cancer.
These aren’t the only factors, however. Other things that can put you at risk for mouth cancer include:
- Prolonged sun exposure – which can increase risk of developing cancer in the lips
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – which has been shown to be a risk factor for developing cancer in the tongue or tonsils
- Gender – men are more likely to develop mouth cancer versus women
- Age – people older than 45 are more at risk, but it can develop in people of any age
- Poor oral hygiene – those who don’t practice good oral health care can have an increased risk of oral cancer
- Bad diet – not eating enough nutrient-dense foods may increase the risk of mouth cancer
- Weakened immune system – these people might have a higher risk of developing cancer
- Marijuana use – recent studies have shown people that use marijuana have a higher-than-average risk for head and neck cancer
Mouth Cancer Prevention
While there are risks for developing this kind of cancer, there are also things you can do to help prevent it from happening to you. To start, practicing good oral hygiene each day and not using tobacco products will help lower your risk tremendously.
A good oral hygiene routine includes:
- Thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day to remove food and plaque from the teeth. Ideally, you should be brushing for two minutes in the morning and at night before bed.
- Flossing once a day to remove any debris that might be stuck between the teeth. If you’re new to flossing regularly, experiencing minor bleeding is normal and should stop within a couple of days.
- Using a mouthwash to help kill bad bacteria and fight germs that can lead to gum disease and other oral health issues.
- Seeing your dentist twice a year for deep cleanings and checkups.
At Stonebrook Family Dental, oral cancer screenings are a routine part of each checkup to make sure your mouth is free of any lesions or areas of concern. While oral cancer is extremely rare, it can progress very quickly and is very deadly. Because early detection of oral cancer is important, you may also want to perform a monthly self-exam–particularly if you are at high risk. Our dentist, Dr. Kevin Varley, will talk with you about what exactly to look out for if you are considered high risk for developing mouth cancer.
Make an Appointment with Stonebrook Family Dental
If you are high-risk for developing mouth cancer, or if you think you are due for a cancer screening, don’t wait to make an appointment with Dr. Varley today. Call our office now to make an appointment at: (303)-872-7907 or request an appointment here.