Although it’s not discussed as much as some others, oral cancer is a very prevalent and troublesome form of cancer. It’s also difficult to recognize early on, so much more progress in this field of research is necessary.
Oral, oropharyngeal, or larynx cancers cause more than 13,000 deaths every year in the United States.
This is one of many reasons why it’s important to visit Dr. Holtzman twice a year for your checkups. During your exam, Dr. Holtzman will look for signs of oral cancer so you can see an oncologist for a more definitive diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
Dr. Holtzman will feel or visually inspect your lips, gums, tongue, throat, neck, the inside of your cheeks, and the roof and floor of your mouth. Signs of oral cancer include red or white patches, sores, lumps, pain, numbness, a change in tooth structure, problems swallowing, and rough, crusty areas around the lips.
Oral Cancer Prevention
While all of this may be troubling, there is a very positive point to be made: Most causes of oral cancer are believed to be about lifestyle, so making a few changes may aid in prevention.
1. Stop smoking
Perhaps the greatest risk factor for oral cancer is smoking, including using traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and hookahs.
Smokers are at a 10 times higher risk for oral cancer than non-smokers are.
Cigar smokers, specifically, are 4 to 10 times more likely to die from oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and laryngeal cancer. Oral tobacco products such as snuff, chew, and dissolvable tobacco have been linked with cancers of the cheek, gums, and inner surface of the lips.
Cutting out tobacco use is one step toward a healthier mouth and overall better health.
2. Apply sunscreen
Excessive sun exposure without the proper use of sunscreen places you at risk for skin cancer at the lips.
If you do spend time in the sun, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher liberally and repeatedly throughout the day.
3. HPV infection awareness
Yet another risk factor is HPV infection. In fact, it’s believed to be at least part of the reason why cases of oral cancer are increasing in young adults.
The human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are more than 100 types of these viruses, and about 40 of them can spread through sexual contact.
Fortunately, most people clear HPV within one to two years, but some HPVs persist and lead to cancers.
HPV can infect the mouth and throat and cause cancers of the oropharynx, which is the area at the back of the throat including the base of the tongue and tonsils. HPV is believed to cause a startling 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States.
4. Reduce alcohol consumption
Research shows that drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor as well. About 7 out of 10 patients with oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
The CDC defines heavy alcohol consumption as eight or more drinks per week for a woman and 15 or more drinks per week for a man.
Make an Appointment for a Dental Checkup
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it’s crucial to get examined as soon as possible.
Make an appointment to see Dr. Holtzman at our Grosse Pointe dental office for an oral cancer screening. Schedule an appointment online, or call our office for more information.