Around 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and it will cause around 10,000 deaths. Oftentimes, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, it is after exhibiting certain symptoms. For mouth cancer, there are several symptoms to look out for.
Typically, oral cancer appears as a sore or growth inside the mouth, and the cancer does not subside. Cancer in the mouth includes cancer that resides in or on the lips, tongue, sinuses, throat, cheeks, floor of the mouth and hard and soft palate. If not diagnosed and treated immediately, oral cancer can be life threatening. Check out below for a list of the most common symptoms of oral cancer.
Sores within the mouth
A major symptom of oral cancer is the development of lumps and rough spots throughout the mouth. This especially includes areas like the lips and gums. Other physical symptoms include white, red and speckled patches throughout the mouth. Unexplained bleeding is also a major symptom.
With mouth cancer, you may experience numbness and tenderness of the face, neck and mouth. Sores around the face, neck and mouth that are not healing within two weeks are also signs, especially if they bleed easily.
Pain in the throat
Another major symptom of oral cancer is a constant feeling of soreness in the throat. It may feel as if something is caught in the back of your throat. As a result, you might experience a difficulty in chewing and swallowing. Speaking and moving the jaw is often uncomfortable. A change in voice can also occur.
Other symptoms that can be experienced that may signal mouth cancer include a pain in the ears and dramatic weight loss. Movement of the teeth has also been reported. This could impact how dentures fit.
Who is at risk?
The American Cancer Society reports that men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women. Men who are over 50 years old have the highest risk. During 2014, over 40,000 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States.
While men over 50 are at the highest risk, other factors can put you at risk for mouth cancer. Smoking is the top factor for raising the risk of oral cancer. Those who smoke cigarettes, pipes and cigars are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not smoke.
Also, those who excessively consume alcohol are also about six times more at risk than those who do not drink. Other factors that raise risk of oral cancer include a family history and excessive exposure to the sun. Those who have contracted human papillomavirus (HPV) are at higher risk as well, as certain strains of HPV are etiologic risk factors for Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Despite these factors, over 25% of those who are diagnosed with oral cancer are nonsmokers and only consume alcohol socially.
How to prevent
The best way to prevent an oral cancer diagnosis is to steer clear of smoking and excessive alcohol usage. Consume a healthy, balanced diet and limit exposure to the sun.
Once a month, you should be conducting a self-exam on your lips, gums and roof of your mouth to search for any lumps or enlarged lymph nodes. Using a bright light, feel around your entire mouth as well as your neck and under your jaw. If anything feels odd or you are exhibiting any symptoms listed above, contact your dentist immediately.
To ensure a healthy mouth, you should be seeing your dentist at least twice a year for regular preventative checkups. It is recommended for those between 20 and 40 years old to have an oral cancer screening with a dentist every 3 years. For those who are over 40, these checks should be annually.