During the month of April, the American Dental Association (ADA) celebrates Oral Cancer Awareness Month. We want to spend this month explaining and raising awareness for Oral Cancer. This awareness includes pharyngeal cancer which is a type of upper throat cancer. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), about 60% of newly diagnosed patients with oral cancer will live longer than 5 years. We want to keep you smiling and your dental health top-notch.
We hope to inform you and spread this awareness for oral cancer. This information could also help with early detection of any oral cancer. Of course, seeing us at Berkers Family Dentistry at least twice a year for a routine dental exam will help detect any warning signs as well.
Oral Cancer: Symptoms
Oral Cancer can appear as a sore in the mouth that does not go away. These sores can appear on the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and floor of the mouth. Early diagnosis of these sores will allow cancer to be treated before it becomes life-threatening. Symptoms can include the following:
- Lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
- White or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
If you’re having any persistent signs or symptoms contact or make an appointment with us if these symptoms last longer than two weeks.
Factors that increase your risk of mouth cancer:
- Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff
- Heavy alcohol use
- Excessive sun exposure to your lips
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Weakened immune system
What you can do to reduce your risk:
There is no proven prevention method for oral cancer but these are a few things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Don’t start using tobacco or quit. Tobacco increases your risk by exposing cells in your mouth to dangerous chemicals.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is another substance that increases your risk of oral cancer. Mayo Clinic states “chronic excessive alcohol use can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer.”
- Apply sunscreen lip product when in the sun for a long amount of time. This sunscreen can help protect the skin on your lip. Excessive sun to your lips can cause damage and lead to oral cancer.
- Regularly schedule appointments with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to examine those hard-to-see places that you won’t be able to reach during a self-exam.
Conduct a self examination at least once every month. This self exam requires you to get a bright light and a mirror and touch your lips and gums. After feeling around, tilt your head back to look at the roof of your mouth and check for any white or reddish patches.. Make sure to check both sides of your tongue and underneath it. Pull your cheeks back to examine the inside of your mouth, lining of your cheeks and gums. Additionally check the back of your throat. Finally check your neck and lower jaw for any lumps or enlarged lymph nodes. If you notice any changes in your self examination make sure to contact us.