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Posted on: November 21, 2022
Protecting Yourself From Oral Cancer
Oral cancer strikes approximately 50,000 people in the United States each year. And, of those diagnosed with the condition, only about half will survive the next five years. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Oral cancer can be prevented. And, with early detection, it can be treated. All you need to do to protect yourself from oral cancer is to understand it and take simple actions to prevent it and detect it early if it does develop.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
- Smoking – Whether you smoke pipes, cigars or cigarettes, you’re six times likelier than a non-smoker to develop mouth cancers.
- Using smokeless tobacco – Using chewing tobacco, dip or snuff products makes you 50 times more likely to get cancer in your gums, cheeks or lining of your lips.
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol – People who drink alcohol are around six times more likely to develop mouth cancers than people who drink alcohol. Combining alcohol and tobacco use together raises your likelihood even higher.
- Genes – Cancers can be hereditary.
- Too much exposure to the sun – UV rays can lead to lip cancers, particularly when excessive exposure to them occurs at an early age.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Certain strains of HPV, a virus affecting most sexually active people, are risk factors for certain types of oral cancer, like oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC.)
- Gender – Men have twice the likelihood of developing oral cancers as women; there may be lifestyle factors influencing this statistic, however, as men tend to smoke and drink more than women.
- Older age – It can take oral cancers years to develop, causing most people with mouth cancer not to discover it until after 55 years of age; still, due to HPV, increasingly more younger men are also developing oral cancer.
- Eating poorly – A poor diet lacking in sufficient fruits and vegetables has been linked in studies to oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Treatment
Your dentist will figure out the best treatment plan for your specific situation based on factors like:
- How old you are
- Your medical history and overall health
- The cancer’s size, extent and location
- Your tolerance for various procedures and medications
- The disease’s anticipated course according to the dentist
- What you prefer
Preventing Oral Cancers
According to current scientific understanding, oral cancers begin when the cellular DNA in your mouth experiences damage. However, several behaviors and habits can increase your odds of getting it.
To prevent mouth cancer:
- Avoid smoking or using any smokeless tobacco products.
- If you drink alcohol, only do so in moderation, and completely avoid binge drinking.
- Eat a diet that’s healthy and well-balanced, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Restrict your sun exposure, and use UV-A/B-blocking sunblock on your skin, including your lips, whenever you do expose yourself to the sun.
Self-Screening for Oral Cancer
To participate actively in identifying mouth cancer as soon as possible if it does occur, give yourself a self-exam once a month at least. Take a mirror and a bright light, and use them to look at your lips and the front of your gums; feel the areas with your fingers as well. Look for discolorations, and feel for lumps. Then, tilt your head back to gaze at the roof of your mouth; again, feel it with your fingertips as well. Next, pull your cheeks out so you can examine the inside of your mouth, including your cheeks’ lining and the back portion of your gums. Pull out your tongue and examine every surface: top, bottom and sides. In addition, look at your mouth’s floor. Study the rear of your throat. Feel around your neck on both sides and beneath your lower jaw for lumps or growths. Contact a Northern New Jersey dentist at Garden State Dental immediately if you detect anything strange or different. This includes changes in how your mouth appears and any of the symptoms and signs of mouth cancer.
Your Dentist’s Role
Your dentist is your active partner and best asset in preventing, detecting and treating oral cancer. So, make sure you see your dentist regularly for routine checkups and oral cancer screenings. Even if you’re performing monthly self-exams, your dentist can detect possible causes for concern you may overlook.
Questions for Your Dentist
Your dentist in Northern New Jersey should help give you a good idea of what to expect after receiving an oral or mouth cancer treatment, particularly insofar as it affects your daily life. Some excellent questions to ask your dentist as part of these conversations include:
- What’s the difference between oral cancer and pre-cancerous oral cancer?
- Is your condition chronic or temporary?
- What could have caused you to develop oral cancer?
- What tests may you need, and what do they involve?
- What’s your ideal course of action?
- What alternatives exist to whatever primary approach the dentist is initially recommending?
- If you require surgery, will you require reconstructive surgery afterward?
- Should you see a specialist, and, if so, what will the expected cost be and will your insurance take care of it?
- How can you relieve your symptoms?
- Are there any lifestyle changes you can make to aid with your treatment and recovery?
What to Expect if You Have Oral Cancer
Like most cancers, early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancers is essential to improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery; by the same token, failing to detect and treat oral cancer early enough could lead it to spread and become life-threatening.
Any time you observe changes in how your mouth looks or feels, you should bring it to your dentist’s attention. Protect your mouth from oral cancer. Call us at Garden State Dental today to schedule your next oral cancer screening and dental checkup in Northern New Jersey.