As the name suggests, oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is cancer that develops in any part of the oral cavity. According to Mayo Clinic, mouth cancer can be found on on the:
- Inner lining of the cheeks
- Roof of the mouth
- Floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
The site goes on to explain that mouth cancer is “one of several types of cancers” that fall under the category of head and neck cancers.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer:
Warning signs of mouth cancer may include the following:
- A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
- A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and a doctor’s diagnosis is needed to confirm the presence of cancer.
When to See a Doctor
Mayo Clinic suggests that anyone with persistent signs and symptoms that concerns them make an appointment with their doctor or dentist. This is especially important if these symptoms last more than two weeks. A medical professional will first rule out other common causes of your symptoms, such as an infection.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
- Heavy alcohol use
- Excessive sun exposure to your lips
- A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
- A weakened immune system
Oral Cancer Prevention
Mayo Clinic states that there is no definitive way to prevent oral cancer. However, there are certain things you can do to lower your risk:
- Stop using tobacco or don’t start. Tobacco exposes the cells in your mouth to chemicals that can cause cancer. Both tobacco that is smoked and chewed can be harmful.
- Don’t drink alcohol, or limit consumption. Regular excessive use of alcohol can irritate the cells in your mouth, increasing your chance of developing mouth cancer. Even those who choose to drink should do so in moderation. Mayo Clinic lists moderate use as one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips. Stay in the shade whenever possible, wear a broad-brimmed hat that shades the entire face (including the mouth), and use chapstick with sunscreen.
- See your dentist regularly. During your regular dentist visits, ask your dentist to examine your mouth for any abnormalities that might indicate cancer.
For more information on oral cancer, visit www.MayoClinic.com.