Approximately 30,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Between 4,000 and 9,000 people will lose their lives because of this disease. In order to lower these numbers, it is important to be educated on this disease and its causes, then modify or eliminate unhealthy behaviors.
Oral cancer, sometimes referred to as mouth cancer, is a disorder that involves malignant tissue growth in the mouth. The exact cause of this cancer is unknown, although smoking pipes, cigars and cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco products and consuming large amounts of alcohol are associated with this disease. In addition, you are putting yourself at greater risk for developing oral cancer if you have poor nutritional habits, practice poor oral hygiene or wear dentures that do not fit properly.
Oral cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticeable, white or red sore in the mouth. With this in mind, it is important to schedule regular dental exams with your dentist or hygienist every six months. They can detect oral cancer in its early stages. Other signs of oral cancer may include:
-- a sore that bleeds easily and does not heal;
-- swelling that doesn't go away;
-- color change in the oral tissue;
-- a lump or thickening in the mouth, throat or on the tongue;
-- pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips; and
-- difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw.
Treating oral cancer varies. Before a decision is made regarding treatment, the patient's overall health and age are taken into consideration. Health-care providers must determine what stage the disease is in, the tumor size and location. After this is determined, a treatment plan is put into action. Surgery is the usual and most common way of removing cancerous tumors. However, radiation or chemotherapy also are treatment options.
Remember, early detection is the key when it comes to oral cancer.