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An In-Depth Look at Oral Cancer

Don’t ignore the early signs of oral cancer.

Self-awareness is the key to the early detection of oral cancer. Visit the dentist at once if you notice any abnormal problems or are not sure. Early detection is the key factor in treatment success.

Cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips and throat.  Mouth cancers have a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or skin melanoma.

The mortality rate is just over 50 percent, despite treatment, with about 1,700 deaths per year in the UK. This is because of late detection.

There was a 19 percent increase in cases from 3,673 (1995) to 4,374 (2000). An increasing number of young people are being affected and 25 percent of the cases have no associated significant risk factors.

In its very early stages, mouth cancers can be almost invisible, making it easy to ignore. You can improve your chances of survival if the cancer is detected early and rapidly treated. It is important to have self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification of:

  • A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks
  • A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • A feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Neck swelling for more than three weeks
  • Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for more than three weeks -- see a dentist urgently
  • Unilateral nasal mass, ulceration or obstruction, particularly associated with purulent or bloody discharge

You should consult with a dentist and doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Also consult with your dentist and doctor regularly to help detect oral cancer.

Reduce your chances of getting these cancers by:

  • Not smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Having a healthier "low meat, low fat" diet, rich in vegetables and fruit with servings of bread, cereals or beans every day

Patients’ Guide: Smoking & Tobacco Risks

Tobacco and alcohol are the most important oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer risk factors. Oral cancer is largely a lifestyle disease, meaning that the majority of cases are related to tobacco and alcohol use.

Statistics show that 37 percent of head and neck cancer patients who continue smoking will develop a second cancer. Compare that to only six percent of head and neck cancer recurrence in patients who stop smoking. Approximately 90 percent of people with oral cancer are tobacco users. Smokers, in fact, are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancer. Users of smokeless tobacco have a 50 times more likely chance of developing oral cancer. One of the best preventive measures to take is to kick the tobacco habit. People who stop using tobacco, even after many years of use, can greatly reduce their risk of all smoking related illnesses, including oral cancer.

Drinkers are six times more likely than nondrinkers to develop oral cancer. People who use both alcohol and tobacco are at an even greater risk. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, if you drink at all.

The best way to avoid these cancers is to never start smoking or chewing tobacco. Use alcohol in moderation.

Want a great dentist who can help you with all of your dental needs? Call us at 1-866-970-0441 today.

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