Oral Cancer Is On The Rise
Nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Although the rates of this cancer are increasing, the good news is that it is considered very curable if it is diagnosed early. Here’s what you need to know about oral cancer and how to stay safe.
Causes of oral cancer
- Although it’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause of any cancer, there are several factors that contribute to your risk.
- Tobacco use – either smoking or chewing tobacco
- Heavy alcohol use
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Chronic irritation – for example, badly fitted dentures
- Poor nutrition, especially not eating enough fruits and vegetables
Signs of oral cancer
Symptoms of oral cancer can be subtle, so it helps to know what to look for. If you experience any of these symptoms and they don’t go away in a few weeks, see an oral pathologist. And remember, successful treatment rates are very high when oral cancer is caught early.
- A sore in your mouth or on your lip that doesn’t heal
- Unusual bleeding in your mouth
- A lump on your lip or in your mouth or throat
- A white or red patch on your tongue, gums, or lining of your mouth
- Pain or numbness in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- An enduring sensation of something stuck in your throat
- Trouble or pain with chewing or swallowing
- Persistent sore throat
- A lump or swelling in your neck that doesn’t go away
- Swelling around your jaw
- Ear pain
- Loose teeth
- Pain in your teeth or jaw
- Unexplained weight loss
- Voice changes
Why is oral cancer on the rise?
Doctors aren’t certain why oral cancer rates are increasing, but lifestyle choices are almost certainly a contributing factor. Not eating enough fruits and vegetables, tobacco use, and heavy alcohol use are all habits that increase people’s risk of many diseases, including oral cancer. Although smoking rates are falling, our diets and alcohol consumption rates are not improving. The good news is that treatment is improving, and early detection is increasing survival rates.
The steps to reduce your risk of oral cancer are also good for your overall health. You already know that it’s good for you to avoid all forms of tobacco, including secondhand smoke, eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink moderately or not at all. Keeping your mouth cancer-free is just another reason to make your health a priority.
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