Let’s talk about oral cancer: in this blog, we will take a deep dive into the leading causes, common signs and symptoms and recommended precautions one can take to reduce their chances of developing oral cancer. Additionally, we have attached a step by step self-examination diagram so you can check for signs yourself.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a form of cancer that develops in any part of the mouth (oral cavity) area. It can be of the surface of the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), underneath the tongue, the lips or the gums. Although there are several risk factors that are heavily linked to the development of oral cancer, such as smoking or heavy drinking, anyone can be affected. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary precautions to reduce chances of developing oral cancer and perform a self-examination on a regular basis.
Causes of Oral Cancer
The exact causes of oral cancer have yet to be identified however, studies have shown a strong correlation between the use of Tabaco and alcohol in developing oral cancer in the UK. Those that drink and smoke heavily are at a higher risk of contracting oral cancer.
Although the use of tobacco and heavy drinking are two of the main risk factors there are a number of others such as:
- Poor nutrition: there is evidence that a poor diet may increase your chances of developing oral cancer.
- Oral Hygiene: cancer in the mouth can also be caused by long-standing wounds or ulcers in the mouth that do not heal as tumors can develop in the infected area.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): is the family of viruses that affect the skin and moist membranes that line the body such as those in your mouth and throat. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted viruses and can be passed on from close skin to skin contact, not only through full sexual intercourse.
Signs and Symptoms
Some signs and symptoms of oral cancer might include:
- Painful mouth ulcers or lip sores that do not seem to heal
- White or reddish colored patches in or around the mouth
- Unexplained looseness of teeth
- Pain in the ear area
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- A growth or lump inside the mouth
- Changes in speech such as developing a lisp.
- Unexplained numbness or a tingling feeling on the mouth that does not see to go away.
Be sure to visit your nearest dentist or dental clinic if one or more of these symptoms worry you and do not heal or disappear within a few days as soon as you can.
Preventing Oral Cancer
Some of the most effective methods of preventing oral cancer from developing, or preventing it coming back after a successful treatment are:
- Not smoking
- Ensuring you do not drink more than the recommended weekly amounts of alcohol (The NHS recommends you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week)
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and minimal to no processed and packaged foods. This will also keep your immune system strong and sharp.
- Doing everything you can to keep your teeth and mouth clean and healthy. This includes but is not limited to brushing and flossing
- Lastly and most importantly having regular checkups with your dentist.
Again, if you have any doubts or concerns after performing the self examination do visit your local dentist/dentil clinic for a professional opinion.