Gone are the times when people didn’t know what cancer is. Unfortunately, the disease has now become so widespread that we all have the basic knowledge about it. The deadly disease can affect any part of the human body and the mouth is not an exception either.
When a tumor develops anywhere inside the mouth, whether in the inner lining of cheeks, on tongue, gums or lips or on the mouth’s roof, it is called mouth or oral cancer. Although less common, but mouth cancer can also develop in pharynx, sinuses, tonsils and salivary glands.
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Mouth cancer is the result of certain mutations in the DNA of mouth cells that allow the uncontrolled growth and spread of cancer cells.
Despite great advancements in research techniques and medical science, the exact cause of mouth cancer is still unclear. However, healthcare professionals are certain that several habits and lifestyle factors greatly increase the chances of developing the deadly disease. These include:
Tobacco consumption, in any form and type, is the greatest factor that pts one at the risk of mouth cancer. According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, 90% of people who suffer from mouth cancer have found to be consuming tobacco on regular basis.
People who smoke face three times greater risk of developing oral cancer than people who do not.
While consuming alcohol occasionally does not do any harm to the body, heavy drinking also puts a person at an increased risk of developing mouth cancer.
If a person is both a smoker and an alcoholic, he/she has 30 times greater risk of developing this deadly disease than others.
Some other factors that are also found to increase the chances of developing oral cancer are:
- Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (on lips)
- Human Papillomavirus infection
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD disease.
- Unhealthy diet that includes too much consumption of fried food, processed and red meat.
- Continuous and long-term exposure to certain chemicals; formaldehyde, sulfuric acid and asbestos in particular.
- Weak immune system
- Family history or certain problems associated with genetics, such as Dyskeratosis congenita, fanconi anemia and various genetic sysdromes.
Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Some common signs and symptoms of mouth cancer are:
- Mouth sore(s) that doesn’t go away
- Persistent pain in mouth
- A red or white patch anywhere inside the mouth
- Difficulty or pain in moving the tongue or jaw and in chewing and swallowing
- Lump in the cheek
- Numbness of any area of mouth and/or tongue
- Bad breath for no apparent reason
Oral Cancer can be treated if detected at initial stage. Therefore, it is highly important to regularly examine your mouth and visit an AAID certified dentist, at least once a year (in case of no apparent problem) so that if the disease is developing, it can be detected and treated at the initial stage. Visiting a dentist is recommended because there are certain areas of mouth that we cannot see on our own. Also, there is a possibility that what we consider a simple sore may in fact be a sign of mouth cancer. There are many such warning signs that only an expert dentist can recognize.
More than 40,000 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer in the United States alone during the year 2014. The figure is staggering therefore, it’s better to be safe and cautious than regretting later.