Oral cancer is an often-overlooked form of cancer, but it still affects over 50,000 Americans every year. Oral Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in April, but that’s not the only time to be vigilant and understand the risk factors and signs. Learn the facts about oral cancer with Valley Dental Health in Hunt Valley, MD, home of an experienced, dedicated dental team.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Cancer involving the tongue, lips, mouth, throat, or even tonsils is considered oral cancer. This disease has risen steadily in the United States and is responsible for over 330,000 deaths worldwide every year.
You may be surprised to learn that smoking is not the only cause of oral cancer. While chewing tobacco, smoking, and other tobacco products have long been associated with oral cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV-16) is also linked. HPV-16, the same virus responsible for cervical cancer in women, infects both men and women and can contribute to oral cancer, especially in individuals who were not vaccinated against HPV.
Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Every visit to your Valley Dental Health dentist includes an oral cancer screening. We are adamant about educating patients about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and not just those who smoke. Look out for these symptoms:
- 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 prevention is key to many diseases, including oral cancer. When detected early, survival rates are much higher and can be managed with minimally-invasive treatments.
Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine to protect yourself against HPV-16 infection, which is linked to oral cancer. Tell 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.
Prevent Oral Cancer with Regular Screenings
Our team examines the mouth, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer, and we gather patient history to determine any 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. Schedule your appointment online today or call our office at (410) 803-5587.