Oral cancer is a serious dental disease which is highly treatable, but that can be life threatening if not caught early. It affects all parts of the mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Your dentist is your first and best line of defense because symptoms can be identified at your regular dental checkups.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a growth or sore in your mouth. It may look benign or go unnoticed at first, but you should be aware of any bump, sore, or discoloration that doesn't go away after two weeks. These are the common symptoms:
- Unexplained bumps, lumps, thickening, swelling or bleeding
- Red, white, or speckled patches
- An ulcer, cold sore or discoloration that doesn't go away
- Hard-edged cracks
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, or moving any parts in your mouth
- An unexplained change in your bite
What are the risk factors for oral cancer?
Men over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk. Other risks include:
- Tobacco use. Smokers and users of smokeless tobacco have much higher rates of developing oral cancers
- Heavy alcohol use
- Prolonged sun exposure, especially at a young age
- Family history of cancer