April Is The Time To Learn About Oral Cancer
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and we didn’t want the month to get away without providing you with some information about this disease.
Anyone can be diagnosed with oral cancer, although we would prefer it if no one ever developed this problem.
We want you to understand what increases your risk of oral cancer, and we want you to recognize the symptoms that could indicate that you have oral cancer.
Oregon Smile Care Center wants nothing more than to see you and your smiling face walk through the doors of our dentist office in Salem, OR, for years to come.
Leading Causes Or Oral Cancer
Each day in the United States, 132 people are diagnosed with oral cancer. This year, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that more than 42,000 people will receive this diagnosis.
On average, one person dies from oral cancer every hour in the United States.
We aren’t sharing any of this to scare you. We just want you to know and understand how serious oral cancer can be.
Here are the top factors that increase your risk of developing oral cancer:
► Tobacco Use
Tobacco is the undisputed leader when it comes to causing oral cancer. In some studies, as many as 8 in 10 people who were diagnosed with oral cancer were tobacco users.
And it doesn’t really matter what kind of tobacco product you use. A study of rural women in North Carolina found oral cancer rates 14 times higher among smokeless tobacco users when compared to people who did not use tobacco. Long-term users (25 years or more) were found to be 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer.
► Alcohol Use
In particular, alcohol abuse (defined as 15 or more drinks per week) is a substantial factor contributing to oral cancer as well.
However, the biggest dangers of alcohol use come when it is combined with tobacco use. Alcohol is known to dry out the soft tissues of your mouth. This, unfortunately, makes those tissues more vulnerable to the chemicals and carcinogens found in many tobacco products.
► Sun Exposure
In a way, this is linked to skin cancer. If you are going to spend prolonged time in the sun, then you need to wear a sunblock of at last 30 SPF. You also should remember to protect your lips with a minimum of 30 SPF as well.
► HPV Exposure
There are many strains of the human papillomavirus. The strain HPV16 has been linked to both cervical cancer and oral cancer, and 80 percent of people will be exposed to HPV during their lives.
For a vast majority of us, 99 percent, HPV exposure will have little or no effect. You may have had it and never realize it.
But for one percent of the population, HPV has the potential to be deadly. In recent years, a vaccine has been developed that can stop HPV from developing into a much bigger problem.
However, the vaccine only works if your receive it before you contract the virus. For this reason, federal guidelines recommend vaccinating girls and boys before they are sexually active.
Learn The Symptoms
Before we leave this post, we also want to remind you of the symptoms of oral cancer. This way you will know what to look for when you look in the mirror.
The early warning signs or oral cancer include:
- Discolorations that are red, white, or both
- Feeling hoarse for a prolonged period of time
- Having a sore that does not heal after 14 days
The advanced symptoms include:
- A feeling like something is stuck in your throat
- Trouble moving your tongue or jaw
- Trouble swallowing
- Ear pain on one side of your head
- A lump in the mouth or neck
You can’t completely eliminate the risk of developing oral cancer, but you can take steps to reduce your risk.
- First and foremost, don’t use tobacco. If you don’t use, there is no reason to start.
If you are a tobacco user, make an effort to quit. We know it may be hard, but we believe that you can do it with the support of your friends and family.
If you need help quitting, call Oregon Public Health at 1.800.QUIT.NOW.
- Limit or abstain from using alcohol. Having one drink at the end of the day or with a meal is not going to cause oral cancer, but several drinks will increase your risk of getting this disease.
- Talk to your doctor to find out if you are eligible to get vaccinated. If you are, take the shot.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Yes, we know this should be part of your diet, and there’s a reason for that. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that help all of us remain healthy.
- Protect your lips. As we said earlier, wear a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Prevention Is The Best Approach
If you have any of the symptoms described above, seek help immediately. Our team at Oregon Smile Care Center wants you to come back many times and for several years to come.