November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month
Oral Cancer Detection is Often Too Late
Over the last 10 years, cases of oral cancer have risen by 49%, and it still only has a 5-year survival rate. Low awareness and late detection are big reasons why the survival rate is so low.
What do you need to know about mouth cancer?
Mouth cancers include any cancers found in the head and neck and affect the lips, salivary glands, tongue, gums, palate, and inside of the cheeks. There are many types of mouth cancers, the most common is called squamous cell carcinoma (scc) which arises from the surface cells of the skin.
Often bumps or patches can appear in your mouth because the skin inside is easily damaged. How can you tell if it’s a potential sign of mouth cancer, or something else? Usually, an ulcer, white or red patch, lump, or swelling anywhere in the mouth, jaw, or neck related to oral cancer will persist for more than 3 weeks.
Other signs include difficulty swallowing, chewing, or moving the jaw or tongue, numbness of the tongue or another area of the mouth, a chronic sore throat for longer than 6 weeks, or unexplained loosening of teeth.
Risk factors for Oral Cancer
Our mouth, throat, lips, teeth, and neck complete many daily functions for us, like talking, breathing, eating, and drinking. A consequence of this is that there are many substances that these areas are exposed to. This leads to a long list of risk factors and complications for oral cancer. Learn more below.
Tobacco is reported to make a greater claim on health than any single disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the worldwide death toll from tobacco use is 4 million annually. Nationally, tobacco contributes to about one-third of U.S. cancer, one-quarter of heart disease, and about 490,000
HPV is a double-stranded DNA virus that infects the epithelial cells of skin and mucosa. The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is HPV. It is one of the most common viruses in the United States, and one of the complications is oral cancer.
The emotional side effects of undergoing treatment for cancer aren’t addressed as often as physical ones, but they’re just as important. Your life with mouth cancer can change quite a bit since it affects a part of the body with many functions. Patients may have to grieve the function and appearance of their mouth, neck, lips, and more.
Food and alcohol
Your mouth area is affected by everything that you put into it, the good and the bad. To minimize even more risk factors, and to get all of the essential nutrients needed for the healing of your body and maintenance of your immune system, eat a well-balanced diet and limit alcohol.
How to Screen Yourself for Oral Cancer
Screening is important for avoiding late detection of oral cancer. Learn the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and when you should talk to your provider with this helpful video from Cleveland Clinic.