Discussions about cancer often center around breast cancer or prostate cancer. Less often, you hear reports about oral cancer. However, it isn’t some obscure disease that you should never think about. In fact, it claims nearly 10,000 lives each year. Who is most at risk for oral cancer, what are some signs that it is developing, and how can you protect yourself against this scary condition? Your dentist in Waco provides the answers.
Who Is at Risk?
It’s important to remember that anyone can get oral cancer. However, some groups of people are at a higher risk than others. Getting screened is especially important if any of the following are true of you:
- You are a male. Oral cancer is twice as common in men than it is among women.
- You smoke cigarettes or use chewing tobacco. About 80 percent of oral cancer cases are related to tobacco.
- You drink a lot of alcohol. Roughly 70 percent of people who get oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
- You are over 55 years of age. Two-thirds of people who develop oral cancer are older adults.
- You’ve contracted the human papilloma virus.
- You spend a lot of time outdoors. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light may increase the chance that you’ll get cancer on your lips.
What Are Some Signs of Oral Cancer?
The earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chances of survival. Always be on the lookout for changes in your mouth. Some signs that indicate you may have cancer include:
- You have a sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal.
- There is a lot of pain in your mouth.
- There is a lump or unusual thickening in your cheek.
- You have a persistent sore throat or the sensation that something is stuck in your throat.
- There is numbness on your tongue or in other places in your mouth.
- Your voice changes.
- You have bad breath that doesn’t go away.
- Your teeth are becoming looser.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
It may be possible to prevent oral cancer if you stop using tobacco and cut back on alcohol consumption. However, even if you’ve never smoked or touched a drink, you could still face this serious disease. That is why screening is so important.
Many dentists perform oral cancer screenings. They combine their expertise with specialized equipment to examine your mouth. They may be able to detect the cancer before you notice any symptoms. Getting screened doesn’t take a lot of time, and it isn’t painful, so there is really no reason not to do it.
Oral cancer is a big deal! Know its signs and get screened so your mouth — and the rest of your body — can stay as healthy as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Rick Cofer has extensive experience in caring for the dental needs of his patients. He performs oral cancer screenings in addition to a range of other dental services. If you have questions or concerns about your oral health, please contact our office at 254-732-0309.