Oral cancer is a deadly disease that is often overlooked and undertreated. Early detection of this type of cancer can make all the difference in reducing its mortality rate. Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can be life-saving. In this article, we will explore what oral cancer is, how it’s diagnosed, common risk factors, early warning signs, and tips for prevention.
Oral cancer (also known as throat or mouth cancer) is any malignant tumor found in the mouth or throat area. Symptoms may include sores on the lips or tongue, pain when swallowing, red patches inside the mouth, hoarseness or difficulty speaking, weight loss, and swelling of the jaw. While oral cancer is treatable if caught early, it can be difficult to detect in its early stages and often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer has several causes that can increase an individual’s risk of developing the disease. These include smoking or using chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to HPV (Human Papillomavirus), a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy for other cancers, and a family history of oral cancer. People with any of these factors should take extra precautions when monitoring their oral health.
Smoking or using chewing tobacco are two of the most common causes of oral cancer. Tobacco products contain over 4,000 chemicals that can damage the cells inside your mouth and increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
Excessive alcohol consumption is another risk factor for oral cancer. The more frequently and heavily a person drinks, the greater their risk of developing this type of cancer. Studies have shown that those who drink five or more alcoholic beverages per day have an increased chance of developing oral cancer compared to non-drinkers.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted virus that has been linked to various types of cancers, including oral cancer. Even if you have been vaccinated for HPV, it’s important to get tested regularly and take all recommended steps to reduce your risk.
How Is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?
Early detection of oral cancer is key to successful treatment and survival rates. Visiting a dentist for regular check-ups is essential in detecting any signs of this type of cancer. X-rays, ultrasounds, and biopsies are all common methods used by dentists to diagnose oral cancer.
Clinical exams are the first step in diagnosing oral cancer. During these exams, dentists will typically look inside the mouth and feel around the neck area to check for any irregularities or signs of cancer. They may also use a bright light to look for any suspicious lesions that could indicate the presence of oral cancer.
If anything unusual is detected during a clinical exam, further tests may be ordered. These can include x-rays to see if there are any hidden tumors and ultrasounds to check for any abnormalities within the tissue.
In some cases, biopsies may be necessary in order to confirm a diagnosis. During this procedure, cells from the suspicious area are removed and sent off to be examined under a microscope for further analysis.
Early Warning Signs
While it’s important to get regular check-ups from your dentist, there are also a few common warning signs of oral cancer that you should be aware of. If any of the following apply to you, make sure to contact your physician right away:
One of the most common signs of oral cancer is the presence of sores or lumps inside the mouth or on the lips. These may vary in size and can be either painless or painful. If they don’t go away after two weeks, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Red patches inside the mouth are another sign that something could be wrong. Some of these patches may also have a velvety texture, which is an indication of oral cancer.
Bleeding from the mouth or throat that doesn’t seem to go away can be a sign of oral cancer. If you experience this type of symptom, it’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible.
While oral cancer is more common in older adults, it can affect people of any age and gender. It’s important to be aware of the risk factors and warning signs associated with this disease and to visit your dentist for regular check-ups. With early detection and treatment, survival rates are much higher so don’t wait until it’s too late!
A1. The most common risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol use, HPV exposure, and a weakened immune system.
A2. Oral cancer can be diagnosed through clinical exams, imaging tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds, and biopsies.
A3. Sores or lumps in the mouth, red patches inside the mouth with a velvety texture, and unusual bleeding from the mouth or throat may all be signs of oral cancer.