April is Dental Awareness Month, a time when dental professionals and public health advocates raise awareness about oral health. Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the tissues of the mouth and throat, and it can be deadly if not detected and treated early. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key facts about oral cancer and why it’s important to raise awareness about this disease.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, roof and floor of the mouth, and the tonsils. It can also affect the throat, including the back of the tongue, the tonsils, and the pharynx. Oral cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, including smoking and tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Why is Oral Cancer Awareness Important?
One of the biggest challenges with oral cancer is that it often goes undetected until it has reached an advanced stage. This is why raising awareness about the disease is so important. By educating the public about the risk factors, symptoms, and importance of regular oral cancer screenings, we can help ensure that more people receive early diagnosis and treatment. When detected early the five-year survival rate is about 84%.
What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
The symptoms of oral cancer can vary, but some common signs include:
- A sore or lump in the mouth that does not heal
- White or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Numbness or tingling in the mouth or on the lips
- A persistent sore throat or hoarseness
It’s important to note that many of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as a viral infection or injury. However, if you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it’s important to see a dentist or doctor for an evaluation.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Oral Cancer?
While not all cases of oral cancer can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. These include:
- Avoiding tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Using lip balm with SPF protection
- Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day and flossing daily
- Getting regular oral cancer screenings from a dental professional
Oral cancer is a serious disease that can be deadly if not detected and treated early. By raising awareness about the disease, we can help ensure that more people receive early diagnosis and treatment, improving their chances of survival. Regular dental check-ups can detect changes early. Additionally, taking steps to reduce your risk of oral cancer, such as avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption, can help protect your oral health and overall wellbeing.