April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about oral cancer, its causes, symptoms, and prevention. Dr. Makkar is a strong advocate for oral cancer screenings and early detections, working tirelessly to raise awareness. In her personal capacity, she is dedicated to ensuring that everyone is aware of the importance of early detection in the fight against oral cancer. However, there is little public awareness and no national screening program. In order to change that, Dr. Makkar reminds people, especially the youth, that oral cancer is on the rise, and that paying attention to symptoms is crucial.
Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the tissues of the mouth and throat. It can develop in different parts of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and inner lining of the cheeks. Over the past few decades, the typical demographic has been predominantly males over the age of 40 who regularly consume alcohol and tobacco. However, younger people have joined the demographic. Furthermore, young people are using tobacco products and vaping, and there is already evidence that vaping contains carcinogens. In spite of this, cancer knows no boundaries, and it can strike adults and children alike, regardless of whether they consume alcohol, smoke, or are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).
According to the American Cancer Society’s latest estimates for 2023, there have been approximately 54,540 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed and 11,580 deaths. Unfortunately, this disease has a high death rate mainly because it is often not discovered until advanced stages. However, the survival rate jumps to 80% to 90% when discovered early. Therefore, it’s important to know the risk factors, symptoms, and ways to prevent oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Several factors can increase your risk of developing oral cancer, including:
- Tobacco use: Smoking or using smokeless tobacco significantly increases the risk of oral cancer. The risk increases with the duration and frequency of tobacco use.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking is another significant risk factor for oral cancer.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Certain strains of HPV, particularly HPV16, are associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.
- Sun exposure: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of lip cancer.
- Poor diet: A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of oral cancer.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include:
- A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal
- Red or white patches on the tongue or gums
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or on the tongue
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
- Numbness in the mouth or lips
- Loose teeth or jaw pain
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together
Preventing Oral Cancer
There’s no proven way to prevent oral cancer. You can, however, reduce your risk of mouth cancer by:
- Don’t use tobacco or stop using it. If you use tobacco, stop. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. The use of tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes your mouth to cancer-causing chemicals
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Chronic excessive alcohol use can irritate your mouth’s cells, causing them to become vulnerable to mouth cancer. Drink alcohol in moderation if you choose to do so. Generally, women of all ages and men older than 65 can drink one drink a day, while men under 65 can drink two drinks a day.
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun on your lips. Protect your lips from the sun whenever possible by staying in the shade. Wear a broad-brimmed hat to cover your entire face, including your mouth. Sunscreen lip products should be included in your routine regimen for sun protection.
- See your dentist regularly. As part of a routine dental exam, ask your dentist to inspect your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes.
In conclusion, oral cancer is a serious disease that can affect individuals of any age. If you experience any symptoms of oral cancer, such as a sore that doesn’t heal or changes in your mouth, see your dentist or doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment can save lives.
Please contact our office if you have any questions or have experienced any symptoms of oral cancer. Dedicated to raising awareness of oral cancer, our team ensures your oral health and overall well-being and you can feel confident that we will perform a thorough examination for any signs or symptoms of oral cancer.