How to Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Close to 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year, causing over 9,750 deaths. The disease kills roughly one person per hour. Oftentimes, dentists find the first red flags of this disease in patients – but there are many ways to help prevent the disease and check for early warning signs at home.
Dr. Cary Berdy from Berdy Dental Group recently appeared on WJXT to break down this topic. Read below to learn more:
What is Oral Cancer and Who Does it Affect?
Oral cancer presents most often as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. It includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses and pharynx (throat). It can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
This type of cancer is twice as common in men as in women, and the average age at diagnosis is 62. Two-thirds of individuals with oral cancer are over age 55, although it does occur in younger people as well.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
In many cases, cancer can arise without any warning sign or cause – and this disease is no exception. However, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use are a contributing cause for approximately 90% of oral cancer cases.
Other risk factors include:
- Prolonged sun exposure, especially on the lip area
- Fair skin
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor diet/nutrition
- Weakened immune system
- Marijuana use
Another growing cause of oral cancer is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). Specifically, HPV16 is the strain of the virus that can cause oropharyngeal cancers, which affect the very back of the mouth, including the base of the tongue, the back of the throat and the tonsils.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can manifest in a variety of ways. It can form on your lips, gums, tongue, roof and floor of your mouth to the inner lining of your cheeks.
Some of the most common signs to look for include:
- Sores that do not heal
- Loose teeth
- Unexplained difficulty swallowing
- White, red or black patches inside your mouth.
While canker sores or scratchy throats are common and are rarely any reason to worry, if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it could be an indication of a bigger issue.
How to Help Prevent Oral Cancer
One of the best steps you can take in catching oral cancer at an early stage – and in caring for your dental health overall – is to visit your dentist regularly. It is recommended to schedule dental appointments at least every six months, or more if you notice anything unusual.
It’s also important to practice consistent dental hygiene to limit the amount of plaque and bacteria buildup that could potentially lead to infection, thus allowing your immune system to defend your body from other potential illnesses or infections.
Dentists at Berdy Dental Group provide oral cancer screenings at every dental check-up. During these routine exams, we take a close look at your tongue, inner cheeks and more to check for any signs of cancerous or precancerous growth. While a trip to the dentist may seem daunting, it’s important to still make sure you’re squeezing in those regular check-ups.