The month of April is dedicated to spreading awareness for oral cancer prevention and detection. Sadly, the United States has an estimated 51,550 cases of oral or oropharyngeal cancer reported. Oral cancer is cancer found in the mouth and oropharyngeal cancer is found in the upper throat. Of these individuals, 40 percent diagnosed have a life span of five years. And many will suffer with problems such as difficulty speaking or eating, or facial disfigurement. The fatality rate with oral and oropharyngeal cancers is rather high because these kinds of cancer tend to be discovered late. However, if oral and oropharyngeal are detected early, your chance for survival greatly increases. Read further to educate yourself on ways you can detect any oral issues that may arise and what steps to follow for good oral health.
Have Routine Oral Examinations
Your best option for preventing oral or oropharyngeal cancer early is to have regular examinations at your dentist office. That means that you have regular visits to your dentist for cleanings and exams. Make sure you are employing good oral hygiene in your everyday life, like brushing your teeth twice daily and using floss. Cutting back on sugar helps with the overall strength of your teeth.
Make yourself aware of the risk factors involved with oral and oropharyngeal cancers. For instance, research has stated in the past that heavy drinkers or smokers older than 50 were vulnerable to oral cancers. Making that lifestyle switch and cutting back on drinking and smoking or quitting altogether helps with prevention. Recently, a study showed that younger individuals are also at risk for developing oral cancers due to HPV16, which is a virus related to cervical cancer. HPV16 or human papillomavirus, has been proven to increase your risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer, which is the type that occurs in the tonsils or base of the tongue. So, age and lifestyle choices like drinking and smoking may not be factors when considering this type of cancer. If you have never had an oral cancer exam, ask your dentist at your next visit if you can get one, especially if you have high risk factors.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
People are now being urged to check your mouth for symptoms of oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Symptoms of oral cancer caused by heavy smoking and drinking may include one or many of the symptoms noted below…
A lump in the tissue of your tongue, usually located around the border.
Tissue that is raised or a growth
Any area that bleeds easily if touched.
A sore that grows under a denture that won’t heal or go away within 14 days
Discoloration of the soft tissues inside your mouth
A firm but painless lump that can be felt on the outside of your neck that doesnt go away after 14 days.
Symptoms of HPV oropharyngeal cancer may look like this…
A sore throat or hoarseness that does not resolve on its’ own
Coughing that does not go way
Difficulty swallowing, or a feeling that food is getting caught in your throat as you try to swallow
A firm but painless lump that can be felt on the outside of your neck
An earache on one side that persists for more than a few days
All of the above symptoms have commonality and won’t resolve.