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Friday, April 13, 2018

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

One word that most of us fear is that one day the doctor will say the big C word. Yes, the big C is cancer. Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue.

One type of cancer is oral cancer. Oral cancer will appear as a growth or sore in the mouth that refuses to go away. Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). If not diagnosed and treated early oral cancer can be life threatening. An estimated 49,670 people will be diagnosed with oral cavity cancer in 2017. The America Cancer Society states that around 9,700 of these cases will be fatal.

The majority of mouth cancers will begin in the flat cells that cover the surfaces of your mouth, tongue and lips. A patch on your tongue, gums, tonsils or the lining of your mouth may be a sign of trouble. Not all oral cancers will look or feel the same. The skin may feel thicker or nodular or there may be a ulcer that will not go away. Most noncancerous lesions will resolve in just a few weeks.

Swelling or thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas on the lips, gums or other areas inside the mouth are all signs to watch for. Velvety white, red or speckled patches in the mouth should be examined by a physician. Between 75 to 90 percent of cases of speckled patches are cancerous. Do not ignore any colored spots in your mouth. You dentist will take a biopsy of these cells to rule out cancer.

If a white or grayish patch is present inside your mouth or on your lips it is known as leukoplakia. Any irritant like a rough tooth, broken denture, or tobacco can cause cell overgrowth and produce these patches. The habit of chewing the inside of your cheek or lips can lead to leukoplakia. The white or grayish patches signal that the tissue is abnormal and can become malignant. In most cases it will be a benign cancer

Signs that you should immediately report to the doctor include:

  • unexplained bleeding of the mouth
  • unexplained numbness, loss of feeling or pain tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • persistent sores on face, neck or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks. 
  • soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of your throat
  • difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue
  • hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice 
  • ear pain
  • change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
  • dramatic weight loss

Note about canker sores:
while a canker sore can form inside your mouth it often burns, stings or tingles while mouth cancer in early stages rarely causes any pain. Canker sore resembles an ulcer with a depression in the center. The middle of a canker sore may appear white, gray or yellow and the edges are red. Canker sores often are painful but they are not cancerous. Canker sores normally heal within 2 weeks. If any sore, lump, or spot in your mouth last longer than 2 weeks they need to be seen by a professional. 

Oral cancer is treated in similar way to the way other cancers are treated. Normally surgery to remove the cancerous growth. After surgery radiation therapy and or chemotherapy to destroy cancerous growth and any remaining cancer cells. 

Oral cancer survival rate for patients with all stages of oral and pharynx cancer is 81%. Survival rate for 5 year is around 56% percent and for 10 year is around 41% and goes down from there. 

A few ways to cut your risk of oral cancer is to:
  • not to smoke or use any tobacco products
  • drink alcohol in moderation 
  • eat a well balanced diet
  •  limit exposure to the sun Repeated exposure increases risk of cancer on the lips. When in the sun use a UV-A/B sun block on your lips

  • Once a month conduct a self exam by using a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of gums. Tilt head back and look at and feel the roof of your mouth. Pull your checks out to view the inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and back of gums. Pull your tongue out and look at all surfaces, examine the floor of your mouth. Look at back of your throat. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. If you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth any of the signs and symptoms then call your dentist at once. 

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  1. These were helpful tips. I'm glad to have new knowledge on this topic, hopefully it helps me keep an eye out!

  2. oh how interesting! good thing i floss and take care of my teeth

  3. I had no idea oral cancer had its own awareness month, but that is great. I feel like it is one that isn't talked about as much as other forms.

  4. Thanks for the insight! I have never had canker sores before thank God but def useful info!

  5. Really important to be aware of these things and don’t take symptoms too lightly. A lot of people I know don’t bother having check-ups done and then end up discovering their cancer is already in the late stages.

  6. thank you for sharing these significant information. it is good to be aware of these symptoms :)

  7. thanks for sharing this. awareness is key to prevention.

  8. Yes, teeth is so so important to us. We seriously need to take care of it as well as getting check up regularly. This is good awareness article.

  9. This is such a serious topic and can be life-threatening! Thank you for raising awareness.

  10. This article is extremely useful and awaring about this oral cancer topic,Thanks for sharing such an instructive article and awareness with us.
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