It’s important to always take care of your teeth to prevent tooth decay and gingivitis. But what if you start seeing problems with your mouth despite your excellent hygiene habits?
Rarely, it could be the start of oral cancer. This disease affects just over 51,000 people each year, and about 10,000 of the people that get it will succumb to it. Men more commonly contract cancer than women, and the average age of diagnosis is 62 (but keep in mind that one-fourth of all oral cancers occur in people younger than 55).
Worried about your chances of getting oral cancer? Here are several important signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for.
Red Patch Inside Your Mouth
One easily identifiable symptom of oral cancer is a red patch in the mouth. When these kinds of patches form, they’re called erythroplakia and have a 75 to 90 percent chance of being cancerous.
White Patch Inside Your Mouth
Sometimes, oral cancer causes you to develop a white patch in your mouth, which is known as leukoplakia. This type of tissue forms from an irritant, such as chewing on tobacco or having a broken or rough tooth rubbing against your mouth. These patches don’t always start out cancerous, but they are a sign of abnormal tissue that could turn malignant, so it’s best to get them checked out.
The most common symptom of oral cancer is a lingering mouth sore that never seems to go away. It could form anywhere along the inside of your cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, or throat. The sore might look flat and shouldn’t cause any pain.
These types of sores are different from canker sores, which are often painful, have a depressed center, and go away in about two weeks.
Other Oral Cancer Symptoms
While the above three symptoms are the most obvious, you’ll probably notice a few other things if you do have oral cancer. These include:
- Pain or numbness in the mouth
- Feeling like you have something stuck in your throat
- A sore throat that has lasted for a long time
- A thickness in the cheek
- Problems chewing or swallowing
- Loose teeth
- Problems moving your tongue or jaw
- Changes in your voice
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Unexplained weight loss
How to Prevent Oral Cancer
There’s no sure way to prevent oral cancer, but there are steps you can take to improve your lifestyle. For example, 80 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco, so stop smoking, chewing, or snuffing right away. Alcohol is another big factor, with 70 percent of sufferers drinking heavily on a regular basis.
Another lifestyle choice that plays a role in oral cancer is the sun. People who are exposed to lots of sunlight by working outdoors have a much higher rate of oral cancer of the lip.
After reading this list, are you concerned about some symptoms you might have? Dr. Mann can help. He offers a full oral cancer screening to check out your symptoms and make sure nothing serious is afoot. Schedule your appointment today to get the peace of mind you need.