Facts About Oral Cancer Everyone Should Be Aware of

Dec 29, 2018 by

Oral cancer is slowly becoming one of the deadliest forms of cancer. There are an estimated 49,700 cases of the particular cancer diagnosed in the US annually. While it takes 13,500 lives per year. The reason for that isn’t because the cancer is more severe than others but due to the fact that it is usually discovered fairly late in its development.

Which is exactly why it is important for individuals to learn about oral cancer so they are aware of exactly what puts them at risk and how they can possibly prevent it.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer develops in either the oral cavity or the mouth, it affects both the head and the neck. The cells of the throat and mouth are targeted and are usually the most common area the cancer starts.

Following are some important facts that everyone should know about oral cancers:

Like other types of cancer, oral cancer has stages

Oral cancer is staged by the TNM system. The system is as follows:

  • Tumor (T): What is the size of the tumor and how much has it spread?
  • Lymph nodes (N): Has the tumor reached the lymph nodes?
  • Metastasis (M): Has it spread any further to other organs?

The T, N, M usually come with a number or letter which tells the patient the exact stage they are on. The higher the number means the more advanced the cancer is for that particular state.

To determine the exact stage doctors may recommend the following tests:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan

  • PET scan
  • Endoscopy

Heavy drinkers and smokers are at a higher risk to develop oral cancer

Tobacco and alcohol are two major causes of oral cancer. Individuals that drink heavily and also smoke are at even higher risk. Alcohol affects the cells in the mouth causing them to dehydrate which allows carcinogens to easily penetrate into the cells. Cigarettes have tar which is known to cause cancer when you combine the effects of drinking and smoking you are at a higher risk to develop oral cancer.

In fact, studies show that individuals that have the habit of smoking and drinking are at the risk of developing oral cancer 100 times more than someone that doesn’t have those habit. All the more reason to give up smoking and drinking.

Similar to Skin Cancer, Oral Cancer too can occur from too much sun

Tanning or exposing your lips to the sun without proper protection can lead to lip cancer. The UV rays from the sun are known to be bad for the skin and a leading cause of cancer. Patients with lip cancer have a high risk of oral cancer as it spreads from the lips to the mouth and so on.

However, the cases of lip cancer have decreased as people have started to use lip balm with SPF that protects the lips from the UV rays of the sun.

 A routine dental checkup can help diagnose oral cancer

While it is hard for a dentist or a doctor to diagnose oral cancer through a checkup, your dentist can help find some irregularities in your oral cavity. At Ocala dentists when such irregularities are found, the patient is immediately asked if they experience any of the following symptoms related to oral cancer:

  • Sore that continues to bleed
  • Loosened teeth
  • Pain in the tongue and jaw
  • Difficulty chewing
  • A sore throat
  • Thicker skin or lump in the lining of the mouth

If any of the symptoms are reported, the patient is directed to get tests done to see whether it truly is oral cancer or an infection that is causing these symptoms.

Catching Oral Cancer Early is Key to Treatment

The majority of individuals that survive from oral cancer do so because it is diagnosed at an early stage. This is where regular dental and doctor checkups come into play. They can help catch the cancer at an early stage just by checking up on the state of your mouth and throat. Then recommending the right tests to determine the cause of any irregularities found.

Like with most illness and disease, the best treatment for oral cancer is prevention. You need to make sure you take the proper measure when going out in the sun and limit drinking as much as possible. If you smoke then you should consider dropping the habit altogether due to the risk it poses for your mouth, throat, and lungs. Taking the right preventative measures can help you live a cancer-free, healthy life.

Dr. Michelle Allan is a family and cosmetic dentist at Vipcare Dental. With over two decades of experience, she enjoys spreading her knowledge about dentistry to spread awareness about the importance of oral health. She spends her free time researching, expanding her knowledge on new development in her field.  

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