According to the American Cancer Society, about 30,000 new cases of mouth cancer will be diagnosed this year, and more than 8,000 people will die from it. Mouth cancer ranks as the sixth most common form of cancer that can affect any part of the mouth or lips. When detected early, the chances for successful treatment are enhanced. If left untreated, it can spread, leading to chronic pain, facial and oral disfigurement, loss of function, and even death. As a result, early detection and diagnosis of mouth cancer is vital.
Smoking and chewing tobacco significantly increase your risk. The carcinogens in tobacco, alcohol, and certain foods are leading risk factors. In fact, if both tobacco and alcohol products are used, one is 15 times at greater risk for developing mouth cancer. Exposure to sun also is linked to mouth cancer. Age, gender, and genetics are factors, too. About 95% of all mouth cancers are diagnosed in people 45 years or older. Men are twice as likely to develop mouth cancer as women.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your dentist immediately for a thorough screening:
Following good oral hygiene practices, eliminating risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol, and scheduling regular dental exams are important to maintaining good oral health. Research also has demonstrated that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day is a positive practice.
Dentists screen for mouth cancer during regular routine check-ups. They feel for lumps, tissue changes in your neck, cheeks, head, and mouth and look closely for sores. Early detection of cancer and prompt treatment is critical. Ask your dentist for more information about preventing mouth cancer.
By Richard Rogers, DDS