This blog is in Honor of April being oral cancer awareness month! Approximately 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, with 8,000 passing away annually. Oral cancer refers to cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. With oral cancer being life threatening when not diagnosed and treated early, it is alarming that the early symptoms are painless and frequently unnoticeable.
Some noticeable symptoms include:
- Ear and mouth pain
- Loose teeth
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Weight Loss
- Unexplained bleeding, pain, numbness of the face mouth or neck
- A Sore, lump or growth on the face, mouth, or neck that does not heal
- White or Reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Swelling of the jaw
There are several risk factors that can increase the chance of getting oral cancer:
- Family condition of cancer
- Tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Weak immune system
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Stop or do not start using tobacco: Using tobacco exposes the cells in your mouth to cancer-causing chemicals.
- Limit alcohol use to a moderate amount: Hate to say it as much as I am sure you hate to hear it! But this means limiting to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Alcohol dehydrates the cell wall, enhancing the ability of tobacco carcinogens to permeate mouth tissues. Heavy drinking can lower your body’s natural ability to use nutrients and antioxidants to prevent the development of cancer.
- Protect your lips from sun exposure: You should be using a Lip balm with an spf of 30 or higher.
- See your dentist for an annual checkup exam: As part of your regular exam, your dentist will check your mouth for any signs of mouth cancer such as sores or lumps.
- Eat many fruits and vegetables: They contain vitamins and antioxidants which aids in strengthening your immune system.
Surgery to remove the tumor- The surgeon will cut away the tumor and possibly some surrounding healthy tissue. This is to ensure that all cancer cells have been removed.
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams (x-rays/protons) to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy treatment utilizes chemicals to kill cancer cells
- Targeted Drug Therapy
Can be used alone or along with other forms of treatment such as chemo or radiation therapy. The targeted drugs alter specific aspects of cancer cells that fuel their growth.
Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. This type of treatment is usually reserved for those who have advanced mouth cancer that has not responded positively to the previously mentioned standard treatments.
Reconstruction of the mouth- If the removal of the tumor creates a defect, an opening in a patient’s palate, a prosthesis can be fabricated. Defects in other areas of the patient’s mouth may also be treated with prosthetics. A defect in the hard or soft palate may affect speech and cause nasal regurgitation. Defects in other areas of the patient’s mouth can also create aesthetic and functional problems. The primary goal of the prosthesis is to restore function, form, protection, and comfort to the patient post-surgery. Results include improved speech, tongue function, eating, proper breathing and reduced nasal regurgitation.
Make sure to visit the dentist regularly so they can check your mouth for any abnormalities or sores! Early on detection is key to managing and treating mouth cancer.