What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

Regular dental exams can detect oral cancers early and more importantly before they’ve spread. It is more than likely that your dentist will probably see the signs before you do.

Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth, lips, or the back of the throat. Most oral cancers about 70% are found in the mouth, while the rest are found in the pharynx, a part of the throat that’s just behind the mouth and nasal cavity.

Who Is at Risk for Oral Cancer?

You have an increased risk of developing oral cancer if you:

  • Use tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, or using snuff or chewing tobacco causes 75 percent of all cases of oral cancer.
  • Drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use, especially when combined with tobacco use, increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Sun exposure. This can increase your risk of developing lip cancer.
  • Eat an unhealthy diet, which can increase your overall cancer risk.
  • Are over the age of 40. Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are over 40. ·
  • Are male. Oral cancer is twice as likely to affect men as women.

Therefore, you can reduce your risk of oral cancer by eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, drinking alcohol in moderation, and limiting your exposure to the sun.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer symptoms include:

  • A lump, thickening, irritation, or rough spot anywhere in the mouth, throat or on the lips
  • A red or white patch or bump in your mouth
  • A sensation that something is stuck in your throat
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing or chewing
  • Difficulty moving your tongue or jaw
  • A numb or painful tongue or numbness in other areas of your mouth
  • A swollen jaw
  • Dentures that are no longer fitting well
  • A mouth or lip sore that won’t heal or bleeds easily
  • Change in color of your mouth

While these symptoms may also indicate less serious health issues, if you experience any of them for more than two weeks, see a Dentist or GP for evaluation.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Checking for oral cancer is a regular part of a dental examination. At each check-up, your dentist will examine your entire mouth for signs of precancerous spots and may spot something before you can see it.

If your dentist finds a suspicious spot, he may refer you to a specialist for a biopsy. If any precancerous cells are found, treatment will usually involve surgical removal of the lesion. The tissue will then be sent to a lab to determine if it’s truly cancer.


Regular checkups and good dental care are your best defenses against oral cancer for more information please visit http://www.mouthcancer.org/