What Is Oral Cancer And How Do You Prevent It?

23 March 2016
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


About 48,250 Americans will develop oral cancer in 2016, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Oral cancer can grow in several parts of your mouth, including your tongue and lips, and is more common in smokers, heavy drinkers and those who frequently expose their lips to the sun. If this disease is not treated promptly, it can be life threatening. 

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Whether you have a family history of oral cancer or not, it is very important to be aware of the symptoms of the disease. If you notice white patches or lumps in your mouth, for example, you may have mouth cancer. Other symptoms include tongue pain, difficulty swallowing and a slow healing sore. If you display any of these signs, do not wait to see a dentist. 

Can You Prevent Oral Cancer?

You might not be able to prevent oral cancer 100 percent, but you can reduce your risk. If you start taking better care of your body and avoid habits that are harmful, you will be less likely to develop oral cancer in the future. Here are several ways you can lower your risk of getting this disease:

Stop Smoking

One of the most important things you can do right now is quit smoking tobacco. Lung cancer is not the only type of cancer linked to tobacco smoke. If you regularly smoke cigarettes, you can increase your risk of getting oral cancer. According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, people who smoke are six times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer from this disease. However, smoking can be a difficult habit to break, especially if you have been doing it for a long time. If you do not think you can quit cold turkey, consider asking your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy or prescription pills. It is also helpful to stay away from other people who smoke.

Protect Your Lips from the Sun

Do you always apply sun protection to your lips before you go outside? If you don't, it is definitely time to start. The skin on your lips is thin and vulnerable to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. If your lips get exposed to the sun too frequently, you are in danger of developing mouth cancer. Before you leave the house, do not forget to apply a lip balm with SPF to your lips.

Limit the Amount of Alcohol You Drink

Drinking heavily can also increase your risk of oral cancer, so you should limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you consume every week. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, alcohol dries out the cells in your mouth, making them more susceptible to tobacco carcinogens. 

Get Regular Oral Cancer Screenings

When you see your dentist for a checkup, always ask for an oral cancer screening. During this screening, your dentist will look closely in your mouth for signs of oral cancer, such as red patches and lumps. An oral cancer screening is very simple and can detect this disease in the early stages.

Eat Cancer-Fighting Foods

If you include the right foods in your diet, you will be less likely to suffer from oral cancer in the future. Make an effort to eat more leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, beans and blueberries. 

The idea of oral cancer can be very frightening to think about, but taking good care of yourself can lessen your risk of the disease. If you do get diagnosed with oral cancer, you should talk to your doctor about available treatment options right away. For example, your doctor may recommend that you get surgery to remove the cancer. For more information about oral and dental care, contact a clinic like Northwest Dental Services and Implant Center.