Oral Cancer: Know your risk factors!

Oral cancer is on the rise. In fact, for more than a decade, the rates of occurrence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers—mouth, tongue, tonsil, and throat—have been steadily increasing according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. This year alone, almost 50,000 people will receive an oral cancer diagnosis. So what do you need to know to protect yourself?

First, know the risk factors, so you can make the right lifestyle changes and reduce your chances. And the risk factors start with tobacco. Tobacco—in any form—is downright dangerous. That’s not news. But did you know that mouth cancers will be diagnosed, just today, in 132 people alone! And one person succumbs to oral cancer “… every hour of the day,” so says the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Add to that unrestrained alcohol consumption—over 15 alcoholic drinks per week—and your risks of oral cancer increase. There are several other risk factors—unprotected exposure to sun, nutritional intake, even gender—but the most direct route to oral cancer comes from tobacco, overuse of alcoholic beverages, and the combination thereof.

So now that you know your risks, what else do you need to know? For starters, regular screenings by your dental care professional are an important part of monitoring your oral health situation combined with knowing the signs and symptoms. Courtesy of the American Dental Association, common signs and symptoms include:

• a sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
• red or white patches
• pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
• a lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
• difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
• a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

If you notice any of these symptoms, call us to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Nigro or Dr. Askins. They will assess the situation and help guide you to know your options and next steps—whether it’s a visit to a specialist or another solution.

Additionally, remember to maintain good oral health by seeing your dental care professional regularly—every six months is recommended—and practice good oral health habits—brushing, flossing, etc. And drink plenty of water!* But that’s always a good habit.

*Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research