Over 50,000 people every year are diagnosed with oral cancer, and being aware of your risks and seeking treatment early is your primary defense against it. Oral Cancer Awareness Month is recognized every April, but that’s not the only time we should remember to be aware of the signs and risk factors of this deadly disease. Learn the facts about oral cancer with Dr. Brent Engelberg of AH Smiles in Arlington Heights, IL, where we are dedicated to helping patients maintain healthy, beautiful smiles.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Any cancer occurring in the mouth, throat, tongue, lips, or tonsils is referred to broadly considered to be oral cancer. This disease has been steadily on the rise in the United States and is responsible for over 330,000 deaths worldwide every year.
You’re probably already familiar with tobacco use as one of the primary causes of oral cancer. Chewing tobacco, smoking, and the use of other tobacco products have long been known to cause oral cancer, as well as cancer of the lungs and more. However, you may be shocked to learn that HPV-16 (human papillomavirus), the same virus responsible for cervical cancer in women, is also a cause of oral cancer in both men and women.
Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms: When to See A Dentist
Dentists are adamant about educating patients on the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and not just in patients who smoke. Many patients are at risk and need to be aware of potential warning signs
- Sores in the mouth that do not heal after 2 weeks
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Eroded areas on the lips or inside the mouth
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- Swelling, bumps, rough spots, or patches inside the mouth or on the lips
Early detection and treatment are vital to successfully overcoming many diseases, including oral cancer. When detected early, survival rates are much higher and treatment can usually be managed with minimally-invasive procedures.
Talk to your primary medical doctor about the HPV vaccine to protect yourself against HPV-16 infection, which is linked to the development of oral cancer. Inform your dentist if you suspect you have been exposed to HPV so they can examine your mouth, throat, and neck for signs of HPV-16.
Preventing Oral Health Problems By Screening Early and Often
Every dental check-up at AH Smiles includes a thorough screening for oral cancer. Our team examines your mouth, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer, and we gather your patient history to determine any potential risk factors. An oral cancer screening is quick and painless, so be sure to stay on top of your 6-month checkups and talk to your dentist if you find any symptoms. Request your appointment online today or call our office at (847) 230-9703.