We don’t always think about the mouth when we talk about cancer risks – but oral cancer is much more common than you might think. In fact, it accounts for roughly three percent of all cancers that are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. That amounts to about 35,000 new cases each year. Oral cancer can develop anywhere in your mouth, including your tongue, cheeks, gums, and throat.
If you’re feeling anxious, know that you’re not alone – even hearing the phrase “oral cancer” can be scary, and for good reason. But as with any type of cancer, early detection and treatment is key. Taking the time to understand the causes, symptoms, and risks associated with oral cancer can go a long way in ensuring that your mouth stays healthy and protected over the long term. Keep reading: we’ll tell you everything you need to know to help you determine when to schedule an oral cancer screening.
Risk factors for oral cancer
Oral cancer can occur at any time, but some habits and health conditions can put you at a higher risk for developing oral cancer. Take a look at the list below to see the most common risk factors for oral cancer:
- Age: People who are age 45 and older are at a higher risk for oral cancer.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop oral cancer.
- Smoking: Tobacco users are at a higher risk for oral cancer.
- Drinking: Alcohol use (and especially heavy alcohol consumption) can increase the likelihood of oral cancer.
- HPV: The human papillomavirus has been connected to some oral cancers.
Of course, your oral hygiene also plays a significant role in whether you will be at risk of developing oral cancer. Without regular brushing and flossing, your mouth becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, decay, and potentially oral cavity cancer as a result. If you find that one or more of the risk factors outlined above apply to you, poor oral hygiene will only increase your risk.
Symptoms of oral cancer
Do you know what the warning signs of oral cancer are? Once you know what to look out for, you’ll be much better prepared to start getting treatment as soon as possible. Here are some common symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Persistent ear pain
- Prolonged sore throat or the sensation that something is caught inside your throat
- Red or white patch(es) in your mouth
- Irritation, a lump, a sore, or an irregular patch of skin in your throat, lip, or mouth
- Difficulty moving your tongue or your jaw
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
- Prolonged numbness in your mouth or your tongue
- Jaw swelling that alters the fit of your dentures (or causes them to feel uncomfortable)
If you experience any of the above symptoms (or a combination of the above symptoms) for two weeks or more, you should make an appointment to see your dentist for a cancer screening and evaluation.
Don’t Hesitate to Make an Oral Cancer Screening
There is never any harm in being proactive about your risks for oral cancer. If you think you might be experiencing early symptoms of oral cancer, reach out to Aurora Dental Group today and schedule your oral cancer screening. We use the VELscope Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System to identify oral abnormalities that might otherwise be overlooked, ensuring that any oral cancer symptoms are identified and addressed as soon as possible.