Oral Cancer – How to Spot it and How to Prevent It
Each year, tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with oral cancer, which is a serious disease that can often be treated successfully if caught early. But how can you spot oral cancer, and more importantly: how can you prevent it?
Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, your provider at Community Clinic would like to take the opportunity to increase your awareness of this disease, by identifying its signs and symptoms and highlighting prevention. We believe the best way to prevent oral cancer is to be fully informed about it and to be open to conversations with our patients about its occurrence.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer can affect any structure in the mouth (cheeks, tongue, jaw, and throat) as well as surrounding tissues (lips and sinuses). If not identified at an early stage and managed appropriately, it can be a life-threatening disease. If you discover a sore in your mouth that does not heal completely or heals partially and comes back, contact your provider at Community Clinic right away so that you can be evaluated.
What causes oral cancer?
Men over the age of 50 have the highest risk for oral cancer; however, your chances will increase significantly with tobacco use (including cigarettes, vaping, and smokeless tobacco). Additionally, regular consumption of alcohol (more than four drinks per day for men, and more than 3 drinks per day for women) also increases the risk of oral cancer.
Your genetics play a role in oral cancer as well. A recent study from the Ontario Cancer Institute at University Health Network in Toronto found that people with a family history of oral cancer may be more suspectable to it themselves.
It is also very important to discuss the role HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection has in regard to oral cancer. HPV is thought to cause 70% of oral-pharyngeal cancers and is transmitted through unprotected oral sex. It is unknown whether HPV on its own or combined with other factors, such as tobacco or alcohol use, contribute to these cancers becoming more commonly diagnosed. To protect yourself, you should consistently and correctly use a dental dam or condom during oral sex.
Symptoms of oral cancer
The most common signs of oral cancer include lumps or sore spots anywhere inside the mouth, throat, or on the lips that do not heal completely, heal partially and return, or bleed for no apparent reason. Also, difficulty chewing or swallowing and hoarseness of the voice are concerning symptoms that warrant a check-up with your provider.
Preventing oral cancer
To lessen your chances of oral cancer occurring, you should stop the use of tobacco products and significantly reduce alcohol consumption. Using a dental dam consistently and correctly during oral sex will further lessen your chances. The use of daily sunscreen on the lips and face is also highly recommended.
If you notice anything around or within your mouth that appears abnormal, contact Community Clinic right away to have it evaluated.
How we can help
At Community Clinic, we encourage preventive healthcare through expanded primary care services which include smoking cessation, sexual health management, and oral health screenings through our dental department. We are available to meet your needs, whether through prevention, treatment, or follow-up care.
Community Clinic is committed to providing high-quality medical service to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay in each of our 16 clinics across Northwest Arkansas.