When you think of the month of April, those April showers might be the first thing that comes to mind. But April, as a month, is about a whole lot more than rain. It's actually Oral Cancer Awareness Month! In honor of this special time, here's a look at some signs that you should be checked for oral cancer, along with some steps you can take to protect yourself from this disease.
Signs Of Oral Cancer
The best-known symptom of oral cancer is spots that appear on your cheeks or gum tissue. However, while you should always have spots checked, it's important to note that not all spots are indicative of cancer. There are many possible causes of benign spots on the oral tissue, such as hormonal changes and nutrient deficiencies. A dentist can run a few tests to tell you, rather quickly, whether or not your spots indicate cancer.
Another sign of oral cancer is mouth sores that are slow to heal. Often, these sores bleed and may be very painful. They may be sensitive to certain foods or to temperature.
Unexplained numbness in your oral tissues or part of your face, hoarseness in your throat, a change in the way your retainer fits, and dramatic weight loss are other common signs of oral cancer. If you notice any of these, contact a dentist for a checkup or more information.
Preventing Oral Cancer
While you cannot 100% protect yourself against oral cancer (anyone can develop it), there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk. First of all, avoid smoking any form of tobacco, whether it be cigarettes or hookah. Do not chew tobacco, either -- it contains just as many toxins and can greatly increase your risk of oral cancer.
Your oral cancer risk also increases with excessive alcohol consumption. There's no reason to skip your occasional glass of wine with dinner, but binge drinking a few nights a week is a terrible idea -- and for more reasons other than oral cancer risk!
Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies is a good way to reduce your risk of all cancers, including oral cancer. Eat fewer processed foods, and try to stick to lean meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and produce.
To learn more about oral cancer prevention and detection, speak with your dentist! Nobody is too young or too old to develop oral cancer. It's a disease that affects many, and April is the month to pay it the attention it deserves.