Oral cancer is defined by the appearance of lumps or growths on any part of the mouth, lips, or throat. According to both the British Dental Health Foundation and Cancer Research UK, the incidence of new cases is increasing every year. Out of those diagnosed with the disease, nearly half have a survival rate of less than five years.
Billions of dollars are spent on cancer research, trying to formulate the best treatments to increase survival rate. However, prevention and better public awareness is equally as important to effectively fight oral cancer. The aim of this article is to highlight potential lifestyle causes, prevention tips and promote early detection of this terrifying disease.
Predisposing Factors to Oral Cancer
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, lifestyle choices remain the biggest cause of oral cancer:
- Smoking pipes, cigars, cigarettes, hookah
- Heavy alcohol use, especially when combined with tobacco use
- Excessive sun exposure (lip cancer)
- Unhealthy dietary habits
- Increased age
- Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer
Oral Cancer Symptoms Include:
- A lump, sore, irritation, thick patch or rough spot in the mouth or throat, or on the lips
- A red or white patch or bump in the mouth
- Problems swallowing or chewing
- Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw
- A numb or painful tongue or numbness in the mouth
- A swollen or enlarged jaw
- A mouth or lip sore that won’t heal or bleeds easily
Regular Dental Check-ups for Early Detection
Dentists have a vital role to play when it comes to detecting early signs of oral cancer during routine dental check-ups. If there are any concerns, the dentist can carry out a brush test. If any precancerous cells are found, treatment may include surgical removal of the suspicious area. The excised lesion could then be sent to the lab for further testing to eliminate or confirm the diagnosis of cancer. If cancer is present, treatment may involve further surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
As previously highlighted, and despite impressive breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment techniques, oral cancer survival rates are poor. This could be explained by the fact that most oral cancers are detected at later stages, when cancerous cells have already metastasized and spread to other organs. It is therefore paramount to have regular dental check-ups to detect any suspicious lesions early on. Early diagnosis can significantly improve treatment success and survival rates.
Regular dental check-ups, good dental care, and a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to win the battle against one of the deadliest diseases.